FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys' tight end depth chart took a hit Friday, with less than a week until the 2018 NFL Draft.
The club announced that James Hanna has been placed on the reserve/retired list, as the veteran tight end has had a hard time overcoming a knee injury over the past two years.
That injury held Hanna out of the entire 2016 season, but it did not stop him from playing a role in 2017. Hanna played in all 16 games last fall with eight starts, and he caught four passes for 88 yards – including his first and only career touchdown, in Week 4 against the Rams.
Originally a sixth-round draft pick in 2012, Hanna made a name for himself largely as a blocker and a special teamer – though he possessed surprisingly good hands. He played 80 total games during his Cowboys career, with 37 total starts.
As one of the team's core special teamers, Hanna signed a three-year, $8.2 million extension in 2016. He would have been playing in a contract year had he remained on the roster in 2018.
This decision should serve as a big opportunity for the tight ends behind Jason Witten on the Cowboys' depth chart. Geoff Swaim is entering the final year of his rookie deal after being drafted in 2015, while second-year tight end Blake Jarwin was good enough that the Cowboys signed him off the practice squad last fall.
Then there's the curious case of Rico Gathers, who flashed impressive playmaking ability during the 2017 preseason – only for a concussion to send him to injured reserve for the entire regular season.
Hanna's departure could present a big opportunity for all three young tight ends. It could also prompt the Cowboys to select a tight end in next week's draft, should the opportunity arise.