When the Dallas Cowboys resigned themselves to losing Jason Witten — this time, for good — they did not have to look far to find his successor.
Truth be told, Witten spent the last three years, give or take, training Blake Jarwin for this golden opportunity, filling unfathomably big shoes belonging to the Cowboys’ all-time leader in receptions, a future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.
And even after changing hats, having joined the rival Giants, Witten remains a teacher to the 2017 undrafted free agent.
“Yeah, he reached out about three weeks ago,” Jarwin said last week in a virtual interview with the team’s official website. “He just told me ‘good luck, I’m excited for you. What an awesome opportunity this is for you.’ He just wants to make sure I don’t take anything for granted and push myself daily. That means a lot. For a guy like that to reach out. To have that friendship between us still, it’s awesome.”
Jarwin, 26, was buried in obscurity during his first three professional seasons. When he wasn’t taking a backseat to Witten, the 6-foot-5 safety blanket was fighting for scraps in a committee approach. Following a mostly redshirt rookie campaign, Jarwin made 16 appearances (four starts) in 2018, logging 27 catches for 307 yards and three touchdowns.
Witten’s 2019 unretirement pushed Jarwin down the depth chart, and the result was another nondescript campaign: 31 receptions, 365 yards, three TDs. He flashed potential, however, especially toward the later months, when it became clear that 37-year-old Witten was on his last legs.
Jarwin entered this offseason as a restricted free agent whom Dallas tendered at the second-round level. He was due to collect roughly $3.3 million for 2020 before scoring a four-year, $24.2 million contract extension, which includes $9.2 million guaranteed.
With his (somewhat surprising) payday, Jarwin was cemented as the TE1. The Cowboys exercised absolute commitment in all phases, eschewing the position in free agency and the draft, save for the acquisition of ex-Chief Blake Bell — a predominant in-line blocker. Behind them on the depth chart? 2018 UDFA Dalton Schultz and rookie UDFAs Sean McKeon and Charlie Taumoepeau.
The opposite of stiff competition.
Needless to say, it’s Jarwin’s job to lose, and a new legacy to create.
“I’m excited for the task,” he said, via the Cowboys’ official website. “I’m grateful that they believe in me to be the future of the tight end positon. It’s my job to never be content with that. To just say ‘I got a great deal now and I can coast.’ That’s never been my approach and that won’t be approach in the future. Now I have to push myself even harder and prove that I deserve what they gave me.”
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Cowboys Forecast to Win NFC East with Sparkling Record
The Cowboys are “poised for a big season” that will culminate with an 11-5 record and the team’s third division title since 2016, according to the latest NFL projections from Complex.com, a digital media outlet.
There’s a new sheriff in Dallas and Cowboys fans sure seem happy about it. Jason Garrett is gone and Dallas seems poised for a big season. It’s pretty wild to think about how perfectly the draft fell into place for the Cowboys. Not only did CeeDee Lamb fall to them early, but they were able to select Trevon Diggs in the 2nd, even though a lot of people pegged him as a first-rounder. Jerry Jones and company should win the NFC East. It’s all right there for them. Now it will be hilarious to watch how they somehow go 8-8 again.
The “new sheriff,” Garrett’s successor, is former Super Bowl-winning Green Bay Packers head man Mike McCarthy, who has pieced together an impressive staff and an even better on-field (and on-paper, until proven) product in his four months on the job.
Oddsmakers certainly have taken notice, giving McCarthy the second-best odds of winning Coach of the Year, behind New England’s Bill Belichick and Tampa Bay’s Bruce Arians.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL