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Less Is More For Witten

big play but then they have to line up and block a defensive end, and it's ridiculous. They get run over and the defensive end is stepping on their face to go get the ball.  

"But Jason isn't one of those guys. He's probably the most complete tight end that I've seen in a long time. At least in my mind."  

Along with becoming a better blocker and more complete tight end, Witten can be viewed as a better weapon this year, even with lower numbers.  

And Witten will be the first to agree sometimes "less is more" when it comes to production.  

"I understand why my numbers are down a little bit," Witten said. "When you look at last year, a lot of balls started going to me when Terry (Glenn) went down. But that's not always a good thing. You can just see how important Terry is to this offense. We need him there with his speed. We need what Keyshawn does. It can't just be one guy doing everything."  

And last year is a perfect example. Through the first five games, Witten was productive, catching 22 passes. But at that rate, he was looking at about a 70-catch year, which is about right for a pass-catching tight end in a well-rounded offense. 

Then Glenn goes down in the sixth game, suffering torn ligaments in his foot to abruptly end his season. 

So what happens next? 

Witten becomes the focal point in the offense, defenses deciding to pay close attention to Keyshawn Johnson, the only proven receiving threat left on the team. So he catches eight passes in Green Bay and nine the next week against Detroit. Then six in Cincinnati, followed by nine more against the Eagles on Monday night. And so it went for the rest of the season, Witten ending up with 87 catches.  

And tons of expectations heading into 2005.  

Now if all remains the same, Witten living up to the expectations last year's numbers created is rather doubtful. But let's not use mere numbers to discount the season Witten is having. He's got 35 catches at the halfway point. Only six tight ends have more catches, and four of them have just two more.  

How Witten finishes his season could affect more than just the Cowboys' record, but his contract as well.  

Technically, Witten is in the final year of a three-year contract which originally was a four-year deal, but voided back to three after last season.  

However, and a mighty big however at that, the Cowboys have a buyback option clause for another year, which would allow them to extend the deal through the 2006 season. That means the Cowboys can pay for the right to keep Witten from becoming a restricted free agent in 2006 without giving him a multi-year deal. They can buy back the final year, which would call for a base salary equal to what the first-round tender price is for a restricted free agent - probably nearly $1.5 million.  

Witten would get the highest base salary of his career, and the Cowboys would not risk another team trying to sign him to an offer sheet.  

This also buys the Cowboys one more season before they would have to issue Witten - at this pace - a lucrative multi-year deal, something the tight end said is important to him.  

"You see a lot of guys at your own position - Jeremy Shockey signs a long-term team and Randy McMichael signs a long-term deal - so you see it around you," Witten said. "At the same time, you know if you're playing well, that kind of stuff is going to take care of itself. I can't worry about it. It'll come when they're ready.  

"But I can't really worry about that. I just have to make sure that I'm doing my job and playing well."  

And regardless what the stats might suggest, or what those expectations might be, Witten is certainly doing just that.              

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