The Dallas Cowboys have arranged for young tight end Rico Gathers to participate in the team’s rookie minicamp, coach Jason Garrett tells me, a helpful step in his progress to earn a roster spot … and maybe much more.
With Jason Witten’s recent four-year contract extension, the future Hall-of-Famer is still No. 1 on the depth chart. But Gathers — the converted Baylor basketball player who spent last year on the Dallas practice squad — is going to get his shot to compete with Geoff Swaim and (hopefully) James Hanna. And an extra week of work will be beneficial to that hope.
“He’ll get some good work in, and some good learning in,’’ Garrett tells me.
There is a vacancy due to the departure of Gavin Escobar to the Chiefs, and there are questions about Hanna’s health-related availability. But the 6-8, 280-pound Gathers already has the respect of Dallas defensive backs who had to contend with him last year when he was a member of the practice squad. Now, it’s mostly about a learning curve — dealing with the “live bullets’’ of real decisions made in real situations.
The Cowboys invested a sixth-round pick on him two years ago, and gave him an inflated bonus to stick on the practice squad here. It’s also notable that Dallas passed on selecting a tight end in this year’s draft.
Swaim and Hanna have both demonstrated their value on the field. Now Gathers (eligible for rookie minicamp because he has no accrued NFL seasons, as is the case with rehabbing linebacker Jaylon Smith, who will attend meetings in the minicamp starting Friday but will not likely work on the field) will get his chance … as the most experienced “rookie’’ at The Star in Frisco.