After spending one year in the broadcast booth, Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten has decided to return, and it seems like he will be a pretty significant part of the Cowboys’ offense in 2019.
Will he still be the Witten of old? Probably not, but he is a sure-handed pass-catcher who can provide Dak Prescott with a very reliable security blanket on third down and in short-yardage situations.
So, here are three last-minute predictions for Witten heading into this season.
3. He’ll Catch 50 Passes
After totaling 35 catches during his rookie campaign way back in 2003, he never registered under 63 catches in a season, with that lowest output coming in his most recent season in 2017.
Now, Witten is 37 years old and has been out of football for a year, and while Dallas certainly plans to utilize him, the team has been acting as if he won’t be playing every down in 2019.
That means Witten’s catch numbers will almost certainly drop a bit.
The thought here is that he catches around 50 passes, which is still a pretty big number for a 37-year-old tight end who just came out of retirement. He’ll be a very viable target for Prescott, but he just won’t be a lock to catch 60-70 passes like he was year in and year out prior to last year.
2. He’ll Total 450 Yards
Witten averages 10.8 yards per catch for his career, but in each of his last three seasons, he came in below that mark, most recently logging just 8.9 yards per reception in 2017.
If Witten snares 50 balls, he should finish with around 450 yards figuring he’ll record around nine yards per catch yet again.
That won’t make him an elite tight end, but it will definitely make him a legitimate threat in the Cowboys’ passing game and will make defenses have to worry about him, particularly over the middle of the field.
Remember: Dallas has wide receivers Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb who will likely serve as the main targets for Prescott (well, at least in the case of Cooper and Gallup), and Witten will act as sort of a buffer for those guys.
Much of Witten’s impact will come in opening things up downfield for Cooper and Co.
1. He’ll Keep the Locker Room Together
If there are two things we know about Witten, it’s that he doesn’t miss games and that he is a great locker-room presence.
Due to Ezekiel Elliott’s holdout and unresolved contract issues with Prescott and Cooper, the Cowboys could potentially have some locker-room issues in 2019, and before Witten decided to return, they didn’t really have any veteran leaders other than Sean Lee to step in and calm things.
Enter Witten, who is the elder statesman in that locker room and should be able to help keep things together if guys start to get off track.
Hopefully for Dallas, the Elliott situation gets resolved promptly, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. The Cowboys should learn from the Pittsburgh Steelers what a star running back holding out can do to a team’s camaraderie, and Witten can be one of the men in that group who can keep the young guys focused.