With free agency looming in March, roster turnover isn't far away. However, the majority of the 2019 roster is already in place. In the coming weeks, DallasCowboys.com will feature players who are currently under contract for next season, analyzing their past season and their future prospects.
Today, we continue the series with tight end Blake Jarwin.
What's Been Good: Jarwin has shown progress since joining the Cowboys as an undrafted rookie in 2017. After making one regular-season appearance that year – the Cowboys signed him off the practice squad to fend off interest from other teams – Jarwin grew into a full-time player in 2018 following Jason Witten's retirement. The 24-year-old led all Cowboys tight ends in catches (27), receiving yards (307) and touchdowns (3). Jarwin's production increased down the stretch as the Cowboys pushed for a division title. He posted 23 of his 27 catches after starter Geoff Swaim suffered a season-ending wrist injury.
What's Been Bad: Jarwin had trouble consistently finishing plays earlier in the season, part of the process for a young player. Drops were an issue at times even though he showed the ability to separate down the field. His playing time actually decreased significantly in the weeks before Swaim's Nov. 18 injury at Atlanta. He played only six combined snaps on offense against the Eagles and Falcons.
2018 Highlight: Is there any doubt? The Dec. 30 regular-season finale against the Giants provided the best example of Jarwin's potential as a pass-catcher. With the Cowboys resting running back Ezekiel Elliott, Jarwin became more of a focal point on offense. He delivered a career-high tying seven catches for 119 yards and became the second tight end in franchise history with three touchdown catches in a single game (Billy Joe DuPree in 1973). Jarwin had never scored an NFL touchdown prior to the trip to the Meadowlands. Not a bad breakout party.
What's Next: How the Cowboys address tight end remains to be seen this offseason. Swaim is a free agent, so the club could add depth through free agency or the draft. But Jarwin is signed through next season – he's set to be a restricted free agent in 2020 – and should have an opportunity to earn an increased role in competition with fellow young tight ends Dalton Schultz and Rico Gathers. One key for Jarwin (6-5, 260) will be continuing to round out his game as a blocker.
With Jason Witten no longer leading the tight end group, Blake Jarwin stepped up down the stretch in 2018. How can he take another step forward in 2019?
Bryan Broaddus' Bottom Line: From practice squad player to an attempted 'poach' by the Philadelphia Eagles to a weekly starting spot, it's been an interesting couple of seasons for Jarwin. As a guy that's around the team every day, it didn't appear to me that the staff initially had a really good plan for him. It was a position that quite honestly was a mess. Swaim was the veteran, Gathers was the project and Schultz the rookie. The staff was trying to find the right combination in order to make up for the offseason loss of Witten. That not only left Jarwin in a tough spot, but the other tight ends as well. Once Swaim was injured, the thought became to play all these young guys and see where it takes them as a team. Jarwin was the one guy that stepped his game up the most. Schultz improved as well but not to the level of Jarwin, who became one of Dak Prescott's most reliable targets. It was an impressive transformation of a player that one time was considered a bit of a liability. Keeping Jarwin from walking out the door one day might be one of those moves we look at as brilliant.