*Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2016 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features tight end Jason Witten.)*
Name: Jason Witten
Position: Tight End
Experience: 13 seasons
Key stat:Witten continues to stockpile milestones that will build his case for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 2014, he became just the third tight end to reach 10,000 career receiving yards. This past season, in a Monday night win against Washington, he joined Tony Gonzalez as just the second tight end to ever catch 1,000 passes for a career. He's just the 12th-ever player to reach that mark.
Contract Status:Signed through 2017
2015 Impact:Likely the most looked-to and respected player on the roster. A positive face of the franchise. Witten is a humble person and player that has always been committed to preparation and hard work. It is rare that he takes a short cut or the easy way out. He has been a clutch/ crunch time player his entire career. It's true he has slowed down over the years speed-wise, and it is noticeable in his yards after catch. He also doesn't avoid or break tackles like he once did. His hands and ability to catch are still outstanding. He's one of the best when it comes to adjusting to the ball on the move. His catch radius has always been large, and if the ball is anywhere near him -- whether it is with one or two hands, he will find a way to haul it in. He has had to make more contested catches in the last two seasons due to the fact that he doesn't separate like he once did. Where he has made up for this decline in speed in the passing game is with his willingness to become a fierce point-of-attack blocker. He has made a positive contribution on off-tackle and outside runs when it comes to setting the edge. Can still win one-on-one or when paired with the tackles. Playing strength and leverage is still good and he is still able to get movement at the point of attack. Has excelled as a second level blocker as well when called on for draws and screens.
Where He Fits: The years and snaps have begun to show on the athleticism of a once- young player. Witten has found ways to redefine himself with different roles in the offense. He still strives to be the best player on the offense and that will never change. He will continue to find ways to win with hard work and smarts. Still one of the most complete tight ends in the league, and even though the skills might be slipping – still can be productive for this team as a leader and player.
David Helman: I distinctly remember sitting in press boxes around the NFL this season, watching the Cowboys' offense struggle and thinking that Jason Witten was on his way to a disappointing season. Then the season ends, and he's got a whopping 77 catches for 713 yards. Sure, by his Hall of Fame standards, it's not the best outing imaginable – but there's no denying the guy continues to chug along. Even in a season where he was working primarily with second and third-string quarterbacks, he still managed to average five catches for 45 yards per game. There's no doubt he's lost a step or two, but for a 12-year veteran, his continued consistency is truly impressive. Put it this way: Witten is under contract for two more seasons, and there's little doubt in my mind that he can maintain a high level of production for the duration of the deal. Not bad for a guy who's about to turn 34.