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Progress Report: Jarwin's Role When He Returns


(Editor's Note: NFL rosters change wildly from year to year. This year will be no different, as the Cowboys seek to upgrade their roster via free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft. Still, a large percentage of their roster is already in place, and they'll have plenty of work to do to improve last season's 6-10 record. In the coming weeks, the staff of will evaluate those players who are already under contract, examining their past performance and future outlook. Today, we'll continue the series with tight end, Blake Jarwin.)

The Good: There wasn't a lot of good for Jarwin in the 2020 season, but if you take the calendar year of 2020, he certainly had an excellent week back in March, at least from his perspective. With Jason Witten out of the picture, the Cowboys made Jarwin an offseason priority and showed faith in his ability as a future starter when they signed him to a three-year $24 million extension. Obviously, he didn't even play a full game in 2020, but he would later claim that he had a great training camp and felt he was on his way to a big year. Last December it appeared that Jarwin was making good progress on the road to recover from his torn ACL when he was working out with an athletic trainer. Jarwin will be 27 at the start of next season, so there's plenty of reason for optimism that he will develop into a dynamic player.

The Bad: Jarwin only played 25 snaps in the 2020 season before he tore his ACL against the Rams in Week 1, ultimately requiring surgery in early October. It was a devastating injury for the Cowboys, who had big expectations for Jarwin, and more importantly, for Jarwin himself, who was poised to get the most opportunities of his young career. The Cowboys' 2020 season would largely come to be defined by injuries, but Jarwin's was the first big blow to the roster. The Cowboys extended him mostly based on potential, so he is currently a player sitting on a big contract with little accomplishments or statistics to back it up. Dalton Schultz filled in more than competently as the starting tight end for the next 15 games, so Jarwin's role in the offense going into 2021 will be less obvious than it seemed going into the 2020 season.

Best of 2020: When the Cowboys signed Jarwin to a $24 million extension in March it was the kind of investment that suggests not only faith, but a prediction of his future based on first-hand knowledge. The team believes that he is the successor to Jason Witten. The best part of 2020 for Jarwin is that, if healthy, the team is confident that he is the tight end that can help Dak Prescott win an MVP and help the Cowboys win a Super Bowl.

Contract Consideration: Jarwin has three more years left on his contract. He will make $3.5 million in 2021 and his base salary will go up by $1 million each of the following two years. There is, however, a potential out in the contract after next season, with a $2 million dead cap penalty.

What's Next? There are a few variables to consider with Jarwin's immediate future. The most obvious is how he will recover from his ACL surgery. It would be reckless to speculate in any major way. It was a significant injury and a major surgery, but Jarwin's young and doesn't have a tremendous amount of wear on his body in terms of game snaps. The emergence of Dalton Schultz is another notion to consider. Schultz looked like he belonged on the field in 2020, and as a young player, his development will likely continue as well. It's certainly possible that either player could claim the starting tight end spot in Week 1. It's just as possible that the Cowboys utilize both tight ends in their passing attack, which could be a huge asset for Dak Prescott. But of course, the Cowboys have three excellent receivers in Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb, and will desperately be trying to figure out how to incorporate running back Tony Pollard into the offense while giving Ezekiel Elliott his typical workload. Jarwin and Schultz will not only be competing with each other, but with all the other weapons in the offense. However it plays out, Dak Prescott is likely to enjoy the results.

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