The roster turnover is about to begin. Free agency opens in less than one month, and the 2017 NFL Draft isn't far behind it. Over the next two months, the Cowboys will lose and replace a sizable portion of their roster.
For every new face, however, there are dozens of familiar ones that will return to begin a new campaign. From established veterans to second-year players, the vast majority of the Cowboys' 2017 team is already on the roster. In the coming weeks, the staff of DallasCowboys.com will preview those players, analyzing where they've been and where they're going.
Today we'll continue the series with third-year tight end Geoff Swaim.
What's Been Good:It'd be fairly easy to argue that Geoff Swaim was the most underrated member of the Cowboys' offense last season. Any tight end that's fighting against Jason Witten for playing time is going to get overshadowed, but Swaim was incredibly effective in his role. He brought value to the offense as an extra blocker, and he added an unsung element as a receiver. After appearing in just four games as a rookie, he played in the first nine games of the season and started on six occasions – when the Cowboys opened games in 12 personnel. Swaim was sitting on six catches for 69 total yards when he tore his pectoral muscle against Pittsburgh and was sidelined for the rest of the season.
What's Been Bad:There's really not a whole lot to criticize, other than the injury that sidelined him for the second half of last season. Swaim drew a lot of scrutiny when the Cowboys traded a future sixth-round pick to move back into the seventh round and draft him back in 2015. Halfway through his rookie contract, though, Swaim has shown a lot of promise as both a solid blocker and an underrated receiver. His opportunities were limited in 2015, due to James Hanna's presence, but he seemed to thrive when injuries opened the door for him to see the field. Swaim had surgery on the torn pectoral back in November, and it shouldn't be a problem moving forward. But it's still disheartening to think about how the Dallas offense, particularly the run game, struggled to adjust with its second-best tight end on the sideline for the final eight games of last season.
2016 Highlight:Swaim deserves plenty of credit for his abilities as a blocker, but receptions are what draw people's attention. The California native only had six of them last season, but one of those stands out very clearly. If you think back to Week 2, the 0-1 Cowboys were driving in Washington territory and were having trouble finding the end zone to that point in the season. Facing a 4th-and-1 from the Washington 30-yard line, they elected to go for it. Dak Prescott faked a toss to his left and rolled right in a boot action. With the Redskins keying on Prescott, he fired a short pass in the flat to Swaim, who promptly turned upfield and picked up 28 yards. The gain moved the Cowboys to the Washington 2-yard line, and Ezekiel Elliott would score two plays later.
What's Next:It'll be interesting to see how the tight end depth chart shakes out in the coming months. Gavin Escobar is headed for free agency and might not return, while James Hanna missed the entire 2016 season with a knee problem that required multiple procedures. His timeline for return is unclear as of right now. It's entirely plausible that Swaim stands to enter the 2017 season as the No. 2 option at tight end behind Jason Witten. At the very least, he'll be one of three veteran options heading into training camp. There's no shortage of speculation that the Cowboys might draft Witten's eventual replacement in this year's draft. Even with that possibility looming, it still feels like Swaim's arrow is pointing upward. He figures to factor into the Cowboys' offense once again in 2017.