Players Under Contract
Jason Witten - Signed Through 2017 Season - Dead Money Hit: $8.65 million
Witten remains the true No. 2 option for the Cowboys, second to only Dez Bryant in all major receiving categories. He is a leader and is showing no signs of slowing down just yet with his ninth Pro Bowl selection this year.
Gavin Escobar - Signed Through 2016 Season - Dead Money Hit: $1.68 million
Maybe the most scrutinized choice of the 2013 Cowboys draft class, Escobar only managed 9 receptions on the year and with all the talk of "12" personel, the Cowboys ultimately got a fullback for the final stretch. With the probable departure of Miles Austin, Escobar needs to seize the opportunity to take on a larger role in the Cowboys offense. His size can present a mismatch on the outside and he is a reliable target, if he can gain the trust of Tony Romo, he could help provide the consistency on offense the team has lacked.
James Hanna - Signed Through 2015 Season - Dead Money Hit: $52,000
Hanna has impressive physical ability for the tight end position but it has not quite materialized on the field. He has the speed to bust a seam or make a big run after catch. Though he lacks the natural pass catching ability, he could be a mismatch problem.
Direction for the position
The Cowboys have talent and depth here; they need to involve this group as a whole. Outside of Witten, they had 21 catches, this should at least double between Escobar and Hanna. Escobar could act as a big posession receiver and Hanna could be a dangerous threat on check downs and delayed releases.
The Cowboys initial approach last year was to load up with some veterans like Colin Cochart and Dante Rosario along with a big blocker in Andre Smith who ultimately beat out the veterans and allowed the team to actually deal Rosario for a draft choice, when they picked him up late in the offseason. I believe they could benefit from a similar approach and once again look to carry four players at the position.
If character questions somehow were to push Austin Seferian-Jenkins to the 4th round or below, that could be a gem to good to pass up, otherwise a late round shot is the most this should really be looking at to get a big blocker in the 260-270 pound range if available or a good H-Back player who can hit moving targets in the run game.
The draft picks may be too valuable for other spots so if the team is looking to repeat the Rosario type signing, some bargain veterans would include Kellen Davis (SEA), Jeff Cumberland (NYJ, coached by Bill Callahan previously) or Bear Pascoe (NYG, coached by new tight end coach Mike Pope).