"Need'' is a funny word, a misused word. It's applied by many to the Dallas Cowboys at any position that isn't inhabited by a star, and in at least one case -- tight end -- it's applied there because of the age of Jason Witten.
So the Cowboys "need'' more stars and they "need'' more tight ends and along comes Adam Shaheen.
Shaheen, at this moment, is more than just a tight end. At 6-7, 278 pounds and out of Ashland University in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, he's also a unicorn, a Big Foot, and until you actually watch the film, a suspected Sidd Finch.
But there he is, looking like a man among boys (as 6-7, 278-pound people do in Division II football as in life) and all of it is enough to have him on the Dallas Cowboys' list of 30 Visits guys.
Witten is playing in 2017 and when he's done, he's going to the Hall of Fame. Behind him there are prospects and bit players, as there have been in Dallas during the entirety of Witten's career. Some of the "other'' guys remained in the shadows because they weren't very good, others simply because they weren't as good as Witten -- and the present roster members accentuate that.
Gavin Escobar is a free agent, having packed his bags and left for California a month ago. James Hanna had an important role before missing all of last season with a knee problem that may or not remain unsolved. Geoff Swaim was a discovery last year in his stead but won't be immediately ready to help now that he's undergone another surgery for a fractured foot sustained during an offseason workout. Rico Gathers? He was well-compensated to stay on last year's practice squad as a sixth-round rookie ... and as a converted basketball player, well, he's in that same Big Foot category as Shaheen.
Does Dallas "need'' a tight end? I don't see the situation as being as desperate as some; I mean, if Jason Witten is your starter, just how needy are you? But the Cowboys are making a statement of their own here, with Shaheen set to visit from a draft class that seems quite deep at the position. Click in below for more news and more visits (and Tony Romo stuff, of course):
And of course, our latest on Tony Romo and the "lie of omission'' told by the Broncos' John Elway regarding trade meetings with the Cowboys. Those Premium Goods are here. ... All of this falling in line pretty much exactly as we predicted it would, with the Broncos and the Texans largely unmoved so far ... and with the Romo camp creating leaks of dissent. For instance:
Now, back to tight end. According to scouting guru Gil Brandt, who broke the news of the Cowboys' connection here, the team was so impressed by what they saw from Shaheen at Ashland's Pro Day last that he earned a private workout.
Shaheen recorded 129 receptions for 1,755 yards and 26 touchdowns in his career at Ashland and now offers up measurables that invite comparisons with none other than Gathers. Maybe there is a big learning curve here -- as is the case with Rico, who according to the Cowboys first-team DBs who had to cover him last year in practice, has a future. But the highlights are eye-popping ...
I think there is a lot of value in listening to COO Stephen Jones talk from the NFL Owners Meetings in Arizona, when he is quite frank about Cowboys "needs.''
“At the end of the day, the blanket stance on the defense is the No. 1 priority is get more pressure and right there with it is 1-A, make more plays on the ball, turnovers,” Jones said. “We’ve been middle of the pack to lower in terms of those two categories and we have to improve. And that’s how you win football games. ... (The approach of picking) “the best player still applies (but) we don’t necessarily have needs on the offensive side of the ball. … Our focus is on defense.’’
That doesn't mean Dallas won't draft Shaheen or other players on offense, at various positions. What does it mean?
Let's assume Shaheen is a mid-to-late rounder, and let's keep an eye on his connection to the Cowboys. But let's also understand that this club, coming off a 13-win season and among the favorites to win the NFC in 2017, is wise to focus in this draft more on talent than on "need.'' ... and that "need'' can sometimes be as difficult to pinpoint as a unicorn or a Big Foot.