With the NFL offseason now officially underway, it’s never too early to start focusing on the next order of business, which is free agency. The Cowboys have 20 unrestricted free agents who can sign with other teams starting on March 9, unless they strike a new deal with the Cowboys before then.
Over the next two weeks, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will break down each free agent, analyzing their strengths and weaknesses and the possibilities of a return in 2017.
Today, we’ll continue the series with tight end Gavin Escobar.
What’s The Deal: There were a lot of question marks when the Cowboys made Escobar their second-round pick, 47th overall, in the 2013 draft. The team was coming off back-to-back 8-8 seasons and there were positions that appeared to need far more help. A future Hall of Famer in Jason Witten was already leading the way at tight end and Dallas even had a capable backup in James Hanna. While there was talk of featuring a two-tight end passing attack, thus the need for Escobar, unfortunately that idea never panned out. Seemingly at the start of every training camp we would hear how Escobar would be more involved in the offense, but season after season came and went without him having much of an impact. Part of that was his own doing, of course, but a case could be made as well that he was never really given a chance. He was considered by many to have some of the best hands on the team, and he does have eight touchdowns to his credit, but overall Escobar produced only 30 catches for 333 receiving yards in his four seasons with the Cowboys.
Cowboys Highlight: Midway through his second year in the NFL, Escobar headed into the Cowboys game against the Giants on Oct. 19, 2014 having accumulated just 154 career receiving yards and three touchdowns. But with New York clamping down on Witten, Escobar became Tony Romo’s go-to target. He opened the day’s scoring with a 15-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter and then reached the end zone again in the third with a nice 26-yard score, the only two-touchdown game of his career. Escobar also had a 24-yard grab to finish with a personal-best 65 receiving yards, as Dallas defeated its NFC East rivals, 31-21.
Argument to Keep: At 6-6 and 254 pounds, Escobar has proven to be tough for opponents to handle at times in the passing game. And he’s a definite red-zone threat, as 26.7 percent of his career catches have gone for touchdowns. If the Cowboys ever did decide to get serious about working him into their passing game more, he could become a valuable offensive weapon.
Argument to Let Go: Of course, the Cowboys are showing no signs of utilizing Escobar consistently in that way, so there’s little chance of him returning. Like Anthony Fasano and Martellus Bennett before him, Escobar is probably ready to try greener pastures elsewhere.
Bryan Broaddus’ Scout’s Take: Will never question Gavin Escobar’s toughness in the way that he fought back from his Achilles injury he suffered in 2015 to be ready for the 2016 season. His work ethic and commitment was impressive. I have always believed this about Escobar – he was drafted to be a 12 personnel tight end when the team was moving into more 11 personnel sets. Where the front office missed the boat on him was in his development. He never was going to be quick enough, strong enough or physical enough to play. The heart and determination was there but the overall skill set wasn’t. His hands are rare but that’s really it. As much as he tried to get stronger, he just couldn’t add enough bulk to become a similar player to his teammates that are used at the point of attack. Guys like James Hanna and Geoff Swaim became more reliable players in those situations. The front office will move along as should the player.
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