Position Battles: After Witten, How Will The Tight End Depth Chart Look?

(Editor's Note: The NFL Draft has come and gone. Now it's time to see what the Cowboys have to work with. The roster is nearly full and that should mean a healthy dose of competition – at all positions. The writers of DallasCowboys.com are focusing on each position to find the most intriguing battles as we head into the offseason practices. Today, we continue the series with tight end.)

Battle To Watch: Jason Witten remains the standard at the position at age 35 and entering his 15th NFL season. How does the rest of the depth chart stack up? The Cowboys could keep four tight ends on the 53-man roster, but that would require going light at another position, and no one can predict what the team's injury situation might look like by early September. Geoff Swaim and James Hanna have the most experience, and Gathers is an intriguing candidate if he can continue demonstrating a comfort level in the offense with all the things the Cowboys ask their tight ends to do as receivers and blockers. At 6-6, he's a big target in the passing game, but he's relearning the nuances of football after a successful basketball career at Baylor.

Don't Forget About: James Hanna. The five-year veteran doesn't draw much attention to himself, and he only has 33 catches in 62 career games, but quietly he has been one of the team's most well-rounded and reliable players backing up Witten. The question is the knee injury that ultimately required surgery and cost him the entire 2016 season. Head coach Jason Garrett recently indicated Hanna might not return to full participation until training camp. Swaim, a 2015 seventh-round pick, did a nice job filling in for Hanna last season until he suffered a torn pectoral muscle in November. That injury has healed, but now he's recovering from offseason foot surgery and might be on the same return timeline as Hanna.

Bubble Watch: It's only May, so it's very early in the game. Every player has a chance to win a job and even the most experienced players will have to earn their spot. But for now, here's how an unofficial depth chart might look for the players who are officially on the roster:

Locks:
Jason Witten
Geoff Swaim

Contenders:
James Hanna
Rico Gathers

Long Shots:
Blake Jarwin
Connor Hamlett
MJ McFarland

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