Smart Money is on Witten

The Dallas Cowboys currently have four tight ends on their roster, and even though Bill Parcells has been hinting that he could keep all four during the 2003 regular season- don't bank on it.

The tight end position in Dallas has been largely viewed as under-utilized since the glory days of Troy Aikman and Jay Novacek.

2003 promises to be different, even if it's not one player in particular that sets himself apart from the others. That's right, the Cowboys currently have four tight ends on their rosters, and considering the latest news out of Valley Ranch, don't expect that to change anytime soon.

"From what I understand, the way he puts a team together is different than most coaches," said James Whalen. "As far as us individually, we all do things differently and utilizing all of our strengths will help the offense."

Whalen is just of the guys in the mix this offseason. The Cowboys also have the services of veteran Tony McGee, rookie Jason Witten, and former New York Giant Dan Campbell, who was acquired just a few months ago.

"You like to have a tight end that could do certain things and another one that you could feature doing something else, and I think with the combination of McGee, Whalen, Campbell and Witten, that we're going to have some versatility at the position," said Parcells.

"I've never kept four tight ends on my team before, but I'm willing to change things. We'll just have to see these guys shape up."

Of course, everyone is talking a good game during the offseason. Parcells wants to keep competition fierce between his players and by giving each tight end a small vote of confidence, he knows that someone will emerge in the long run as a clear-cut leader.

If anybody has the long-term potential the Cowboys are looking for, it's Jason Witten, a third round draft pick out of Tennessee.

Whalen has always been viewed as a undersized tight end, even though he set numerous receiving records at Kentucky. McGee is a savvy veteran that is entering the twilight of his career, and Dan Campbell is somebody that I've always considered a career backup.

However Witten has the potential to be a star in this league.

While he wasn't able to effectively showcase his skills last season because he saw double coverage virtually all year long, he should be able to prove himself in the professional ranks- especially if Terry Glenn, Antonio Bryant and company can keep the pressure on in the secondary.

"We've got some experience here and I'm learning a lot every day," Witten said yesterday. "Hopefully, I'll be able to contribute this season even though we've got some guys that can already be pretty productive."

At 6-6, 242-pounds, I'd say he's already off to a pretty good start.

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