- Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
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IRVING, Texas – Martellus Bennett made it pretty clear last week that he does not intend to return to Dallas, and the Cowboys are not about to stand in his way by making some lucrative offer to keep him.
Bennett might want to be a No. 1 tight end, but there does not seem to be a lot of teams in need at the moment. You might be able to come up with five - Cleveland, Denver, Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis – so Bennett’s market might not be too large.
But Bennett’s impending departure does create a void in talent and also sheer numbers, and filling that hole could be somewhat difficult in free agency.
When players hit the open market, their top concerns are money, opportunity and winning. Depending on the player, you can put those three things in any kind of order you want.
Let’s focus on the opportunity part for this discussion.
In Jason Witten the Cowboys have one of the best tight ends in the NFL. He will not come off the field unless he loses a limb. He will catch around 80 passes on the season, average around 12 yards a reception and score about five touchdowns a year.
When the Cowboys drafted Anthony Fasano in 2006 and Bennett in 2008, they were ahead of this two-tight end thought many teams have now. They traded Fasano to Miami in 2008 and took Bennett to be the guy. It never happened for Bennett for reasons that will depend on your loyalty: the coaches never utilized Bennett correctly or Bennett never took advantage of the opportunities he got in order to receive more opportunities.
It doesn’t matter how it happened. It did. Now the Cowboys have to move on to the next guy.
Maybe that next guy is John Phillips. It’s doubtful that guy will be in the draft because most of the draft experts call this one of the worst tight end classes ever.
So what to do in free agency. The Cowboys would like more of an in-line blocker, like Bennett, but also somebody who can be something of a pass threat.
John Carlson missed last year with a shoulder injury and will be available. If healthy, he can produce, but he might want a bigger opportunity elsewhere. Cleveland’s Alex Smith’s season ended because of an injury too. Other options could be Cincinnati’s Donald Lee or Chicago’s Kellen Davis.