Dallas Cowboys

Jason Witten's status won't force Cowboys to draft a tight end on Day 3

The Cowboys' brass won't force things on Day 3 of the NFL Draft.
The Cowboys' brass won't force things on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. mfaulkner@star-telegram.com

Barring a last-minute change, Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is calling it a career after 15 seasons.

Witten, who turns 36 on May 6, is expected to become the lead analyst on ESPN's "Monday Night Football."

It's a blow to a Cowboys team that has relied on Witten’s presence on the field and leadership off it. But Witten’s status isn’t going to affect the Cowboys’ draft going into the final day today.

The Cowboys have seven picks in Rounds 4-7, but don’t believe it’s a necessity to land a tight end.

After 15 seasons with the Cowboys, tight end Jason Witten is retiring. Take a look back at his franchise and NFL records, and other career milestones.

Owner Jerry Jones needed just one word to answer a question whether the organization had to draft a tight end today.

"No," Jerry Jones said Friday night.

Added executive vice president Stephen Jones: "Wherever Jason comes down at the end of the day, it's not going to affect how we pick tomorrow."

That doesn’t mean the Cowboys won’t draft a tight end. It just means they're not going to force the issue if better players at other positions are available when they’re on the clock.

It’s also a vote of confidence to the tight ends the Cowboys have on their roster even with Witten and backup James Hanna retiring this offseason.

Geoff Swaim, a 2015 seventh-round pick, has developed into a reliable blocking tight end, although he has just nine career receptions in 28 games.

Blake Jarwin, an undrafted free agent in 2017, has shown promise and earned a promotion from the practice squad to the 53-man roster in the middle of last season.

"We really like Jarwin, he did a lot of good things for us," Stephen Jones said. "We moved him up and all he did was keep doing good things for us. He was a receiver first and transformed into a tight end. He's a long, big-bodied guy and just showed a lot of promise."

University of Texas lineman Connor Williams was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys on Friday night at AT&T Stadium.

And then there’s Rico Gathers, the former Baylor basketball standout who joined the Cowboys as a sixth-round pick in 2016. Gathers hasn’t played a regular-season snap, but has flashed potential in training camp and preseason games.

Gathers had a couple touchdown receptions last preseason before a concussion essentially knocked him out for the entire season.

"Of course Rico, it's no given there, but he does some special things when given opportunities," Stephen Jones said. "We're growing with him and we just have to see how that works out."

Again, tight end is not viewed as a necessity for the Cowboys on Day 3. But don't be surprised if they land one.

"We wouldn't rule one out, but we don't feel overly overdone to push it," Stephen Jones said.

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