While free agency officially begins in March, roster turnover isn't too far away. The Cowboys will indeed add and presumably release players, along with letting some go without a new contract.
However, the majority of the 2018 roster is already in place. 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 continue the series with tight end Geoff Swaim.
Views of #87 Tightend Geoff Swaim from the 2017-18 Regular Season.
What's Been Good:
Consider this fact: Geoff Swaim was drafted at the very end of the 2015 NFL Draft, at pick No. 246 overall. He was 10 picks away from being Mr. Irrelevant, and his selection puzzled quite a few draft pundits. Not only did Swaim make the team as a rookie, but he is still here heading into Year 4 and has developed a solid role for himself. That's more than several other members of the Cowboys' 2015 draft class can say. As the Cowboys' third tight end, he logged 160 snaps on offense and 44 percent of the special teams snaps. He appeared in 15 games and made two starts. It might not be a lot, but it's not bad for a guy who was seen as a seventh-round afterthought on draft day.
What's Been Bad:
There's no doubt that James Hanna's return from injury in 2017 had an impact on Swaim's workload. In 2016, before he was injured in Week 10 against Pittsburgh, Swaim was averaging 25 plays per game on offense, meaning he was on the field for 35 percent of the Cowboys' snaps. This year, with Hanna healthy, that number dipped to 16 percent. That showed up in the stats, too, as Swaim caught just two passes for 25 yards in 2017 – as opposed to six passes for 69 yards in 2016, in just nine games. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it goes to show how hard it is to get reps behind a tight end like Jason Witten, who never comes off the field.
Most tight ends don't get enough credit for their roles as blockers, and Swaim did some fantastic work in the Dec. 10 win against the New York Giants to help put the game out of reach. The Cowboys held a 23-10 lead late in the fourth quarter and Sean Lee had just intercepted Eli Manning. With Dallas facing a 3rd-and-4 from the New York 15-yard line, Swaim motioned inside from the left flank on a toss to Rod Smith. Moving left to right, Swaim squared up on New York linebacker Calvin Munson, driving him off the line. The block freed up Tyron Smith and Keith Smith to take on their assignments. On top of that, Swaim drove Munson off the ball and pancaked him – which effectively tripped up nose tackle Damon Harrison and linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, taking them out of the play. Swaim's block, combined with the efforts of Tyron and Keith Smith, opened up a gigantic alleyway for Rod Smith. He scampered virtually untouched for a game-clinching touchdown.
The Cowboys' tight end situation is interesting in that it's very certain in the short-term and very uncertain in the long-term. Swaim is entering the final year of his rookie deal and Hanna is entering the final year of the contract extension he signed in 2016. Jason Witten is under contract for four more years, but he will soon turn 36 and it's impossible to say for sure how much longer he intends to play. Behind them, the Cowboys have unknown candidates in Rico Gathers and Blake Jarwin. So the immediate future looks fine, but that could all change in the span of 12 months. Heading into the final year of his deal, it'll be interesting to see if Swaim can make the type of impact that justifies another contract here in Dallas.
- Solid two-way player. He is not afraid to do the dirty work at the tight end spot.
- Gives you everything he has as a blocker. Has developed a knack for inline work.
- Because of that, he is better than a tie up and pin guy. He gets movement when opponents play him head up.
- You can also play him at several spots and not miss a beat.
- He wasn't involved in the passing game like he was in the previous season, but his hands and route execution are a plus.
- Swaim also gives you reliable snaps on special teams. Kickoff return unit had success with him as a wedge blocker.