Weekend mailbag: Replace Jason Witten?

April, 21, 2013
4/21/13
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This is our last weekend mailbag before the NFL draft kicks off next Thursday.

Let's get to it.

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Q: I know we need offensive line help, but what about at tight end? Jason Witten is getting a little long in the tooth even though he still plays at a high level, I just think we should start looking at the future at this position, what are your thoughts on this? Bobby Henry (Lemoore, Calif).

A: Replace Jason Witten? Really!?!?!? I don't see a decline in play from Witten. Last year he struggled at the start and that was due to his recovery from a lacerated spleen. When the season ended, Witten led the team in catches (110) tied for first downs earned (54) and had 1,039 receiving yards. If you want to pick on Witten about anything, maybe his blocking. The Cowboys could use a blocking tight end in this draft, if one is available. The team has six picks and unless they make a trade to get an extra second or third rounder I'm not sure using a draft pick on a tight end is worth it.

Q: Is Stephen Jones the worst contract negotiator in the League? Howard Stevens (Allentown, Pa.)

A: I understand the question. You could question the deals given to Miles Austin, Doug Free, Tony Romo and the renegotiated deal of Jay Ratliff, but Sean Lissemore, Barry Church and at that time Gerald Sensabaugh, signed team-friendly contracts. The Cowboys' $50.1 million deal with cornerback Brandon Carr last offseason was the going-rate for a cornerback in free agency at that time. The next three big contracts: Sean Lee, Bruce Carter and Dez Bryant, will be worth looking at for the future. Lee enters the final year of his deal and the Cowboys saw what the Green Bay Packers signed linebacker Clay Matthews for at $65 million for five seasons. Carter and Bryant are a year away from new deals.

Q: What do you think of picking up Collin Klein from Kansas State as our project quarterback getting drafted in the middle rounds? John (Chandler, Ariz.)

A: I have no problem with drafting a quarterback in the middle rounds, especially Klein. The issue for me and with most people who follow the team on a daily basis is: With so many holes is drafting a quarterback worth it? I would say yes because the shelf life of Tony Romo is three years, based on the structure of his contract from a financial standpoint. So, why not get a quarterback? Kyle Orton is a solid backup but at some point in the next year or so you want a younger player at that position.

Q: Are there any salary cap implications around the potential Doug Free paycut? Would the Cowboys carry over less dead money into 2014 if Free agrees to a restructured deal rather than getting released outright? Martin (Washington, D.C.)

A: If the Cowboys make Free a post June 1 cut, the team saves $7 million in 2013, but it won't get the savings, as is the case with the $2 million for Marcus Spears' release, until June. Cutting Free carries $7 million in dead money for 2014. Now the Cowboys won't have any more salary cap restrictions, they lost $5 million this year because they violated an unwritten NFL rule regarding contracts in the uncapped year, so they might be in good shape going forward in regards to cap space.

Q: I watch every game. FYI DeMarcus Ware disappears late in games. He gets three out of every 10 sacks in the fourth quarter. I personally watched him pass up a forced fumble on a QB to get a sack. He needs to shut his mouth about Romo. As Sapp said, "he couldn't lead ants to a picnic in his own back yard." John Ward (Hampton, Va.)

A: John, it's clear you don't like Ware. Last season, a season where he played with numerous injuries, including with one arm in the final two weeks of the season, he picked up four fourth-quarter sacks, tied for ninth in the NFL. Ware also finished with 11.5 sacks. He's an elite player and his toughness shouldn't be questioned. I'm surprised you're ripping Ware. I don't think Ware was taking about Romo when he said put up or shutup. His statement was about the entire team needing to put up or shutup. Not Romo.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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