Dallas Cowboys

Could Cowboys replace Jason Witten with future Hall of Famer new to the free-agent market?

Tight end Antonio Gates, scoring last year against the Jets, returns from a four-game suspension Monday to boost the Chargers’ offense.
Tight end Antonio Gates, scoring last year against the Jets, returns from a four-game suspension Monday to boost the Chargers’ offense. AP

Jason Witten's pending retirement created a major need for the Dallas Cowboys at the tight end position.

Could Antonio Gates be the one to fill it?

On Friday, the San Diego Chargers informed the veteran tight end that he would not be re-signed, according to multiple reports.

Earlier in the day, Witten's NFL career ended somewhat abruptly when reports confirmed he would be taking over as a lead analyst on ESPN's "Monday Night Football", even though owner Jerry Jones said the tight would ponder the move over the weekend.

It's unclear if the Cowboys knew about his plans in advance, but the Cowboys opted to take Boisie State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams with the No. 19 and No. 50 picks, respectively.

Gates will turn 38 in June and would not be a long-term solution at the position. But he could provide Dak Prescott a reasonable pass catching option. He could also to take up some of Witten's old leadership responsibilities.

Tight end Hunter Henry’s emergence and the free-agent signing of tight end Virgil Green solidified the Chargers decision to move on from one of the best tight end's of all-time.

In his career, Gates has caught 927 passes for 11,508 yards. Those are both franchise records. His 114 touchdowns are the most for a tight end in NFL history.

Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch is the newest Dallas Cowboy, as the 19th pick on Thursday night at the 2018 NFL Draft. On Friday, he took the team helicopter to the Star in Frisco.

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