FREE AGENCY: Witten Then What?

The Cowboys are set with Jason Witten as the starter, but about after him? That's a good question.

Starter -- Jason Witten (25) [6 years/$29 million through 2012]
Backup -- Anthony Fasano (23) [4 years through 2010]
Backup -- Tony Curtis (24) [1 year/$445,000 through 2009]
Backup -- TE Rodney Hannah (23) [futures contract/practice squad]

On paper, the Dallas Cowboys appear to be set at tight end for the next five years.

Former Tennessee standout and third-round draft pick Jason Witten finished the 2007 season with his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl selection. He set a club tight end record with a team-best 96 catches for 1,145 yards.

In fact, no tight end in team history has caught more passes in a season than Witten and only two in NFL history have caught more passes in a season.

Witten's backup however, Anthony Fasano, is a different story.

The second-round pick out of Notre Dame has not lived up to expectations in his two years in Dallas. It wouldn't be out of the question for him to see more time taken away from him next season by the emerging and improving Tony Curtis.

The Cowboys should have gone in another direction in the second round of the 2006 draft, but Anthony Fasano is a serviceable backup.

2008 Free Agent TEs
Unrestricted Free Agents
Anderson, Courtney (ATL)
Blakley, Dwayne (ATL)
Gaines, Michael (BUF)
Murphy, Matt (BUF)
Fauria, Christian (CAR)
Mangum, Kris (CAR)
Gilmore, John (CHI)
Alexander, Stephen (DEN)
Jackson, Nate (DEN)
Beverly, Eric (DET)
Owens, John (DET)
Krause, Ryan (GB)
Bruener, Mark (HST)
Seidman, Mike (IND)
Angulo, Richard (JAX)
Johnson, Eric (NO)
Miller, Billy (NO)
Ryan, Sean (NYJ)
Smith, L.J. (PHI)
Joppru, Bennie (SEA)
Pollard, Marcus (SEA)
Robinson, Jeff (SEA)
Walker, Aaron (SL)
Heinrich, Keith (TB)
Stevens, Jerramy (TB)
Hartsock, Ben (TEN)
Troupe, Ben (TEN)
Kozlowski, Brian (WAS)

Restricted Free Agents
Euhus, Tim (ARZ)
Utecht, Ben (IND)
Bajema, Billy (SF)
Scaife, Bo (TEN)

Fasano has caught 14 passes in each of his first two years with Dallas, including one touchdown in 2007. Meanwhile Curtis cuaght three passes for 18 yards this past season, but all three went for touchdowns.

He was also a productive special teams player, recording four total tackles and forcing a fumble.

Curtis, who was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Portland State in 2006, was signed to a one-year deal earlier this month in a move to free up cap space by incorporating unlikely to be earned incentives through a loophole the NFL figures to fix in the the near future.

In terms of free agency, tight end is obviously not a position of need. The Cowboys have a Pro Bowl performer in Witten locked up for the foreseeable future and reasonable reserves with Curtis and Fasano.

Still, there will be several big names available this offseason, including Dallas Clark (Indianapolis), L.J. Smith (Philadelphia) and Kris Wilson (Kansas City).

In fact Wilson, who may be the biggest sleeper of this year's free agent class has tremendous upside but has been forgotten due to the fact he's playing behind a future Hall of Famer in Tony Gonzalez.

While Dallas is expected to be somewhat aggressive at several positions in free agency, securing additional help at tight end does not appear to be in the cards this offseason.

Witten is one of the best in the league and enough depth currently exists behind him to essentially leave the position alone for another year.

Dallas also has former Houston standout Rodney Hannah on its offseason roster. Hannah spent the 2007 season on the Cowboys' practice squad.

Just in case the Cowboys need bodies for training camp, don't forget about these tight ends currently wihtout a team:

Erron Kinney - A very solid blocking tight end but had micro fracture surgery late last season and hasn't played ever since.

Doug Jolley - Athletic tight end who could fill a No. 2 role. Had a tryout with the Buffalo Bills recently.

Ernie Conwell - Oft-injured but productive player who could fill a No. 2 role for a team. Had a tryout with the Detroit Lions last season.

Jermaine Wiggins - Journeyman who could fill a no. 2 role. Was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars shortly before the regular season started.

Aaron Shea - Athletic and could fill a no. 3 role for a team or better.

Marcellus Rivers - Was recently waived by the New England Patriots and had a tryout for the Detroit Lions recently.

Darnell Sanders - Strictly a No. 3 tight end.

Matt Kranchick - Has size and could fill a no. 3 role for a team. Worked out for the New Orleans Saints recently.

Zach Hilton - Former undrafted free agent has bounced the last year or so but brings some size to the position. Had tryouts with the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins last season.

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