It's a new day in the Dallas Cowboys organization, and not simply in the head coaching ranks. That said, the decision to move on from Jason Garrett and to hire Mike McCarthy also ushered in a needed change in how the team viewed needs at certain positions going forward, with tight end being one of them. Much the inverse of Garrett, McCarthy sees more value in an athletic, YAC-happy tight end than an aging one of the traditional security blanket build, which led to the Cowboys parting ways with Jason Witten and awarding Blake Jarwin a four-year deal worth up to $24.25 million that also includes $9.25 million in guarantees.
And with that, they knight him as the successor to Witten, who is now readying to suit up in 2020 for the Las Vegas Raiders. Witten made it clear he wanted to remain with the only team he's ever played for, but it simply wasn't in the cards. That doesn't mean he's turned his back on his friendship with his former backup, though.
If anything, the two are closer than ever, and the future Hall of Famer continues to help motivate Jarwin for what's to come.
"Witt is a great guy," Jarwin said, via the team's website. "He's always been there for me. He's just a true professional. He reached out about three weeks ago. He just told me, 'Good luck, I'm excited for you. What an awesome opportunity this is for you.' He just wants to make sure I don't take anything for granted and push myself daily.
"That means a lot. For a guy like that to reach out. To have that friendship between us still, it's awesome."
As for the business at hand, succeeding a legend like Witten won't be easy, but Jarwin has the talent to make it look that way. He's proven he can literally set in-game records when given the opportunity -- ask the New York Giants for reference -- and averaging 11.8 yards per catch in 2019 wasn't a fluke. In the year prior, Jarwin averaged 11.4 yards per catch and he's delivered three receiving touchdowns in two consecutive seasons, despite having only four starts in 2018 and seven the following season.
Additionally, in a season that saw the Cowboys' receiving unit lead the league in drops, Jarwin secured 75.6 percent of passes heaved toward him by Dak Prescott -- more than 10 percentage points higher than any wide receiver on the team. He's come a long way from being an undrafted free agent, but when I posed the question to him at the conclusion of the 2019 season regarding his readiness to potentially ascend to the tight end throne in 2020, he sounded like anything but a guy who didn't have a job when the 2017 NFL Draft concluded.
"Absolutely [I'm ready]," Jarwin. "I'm fully confident in myself to be a full-time playmaker in this league. I feel like I'm in pretty good shape right now and I can make a lot of big plays, but I think I can be even better. It's my job to get back to work, hit it hard and watch a lot of film.
"I think that's where it starts. You have to see what you're not doing very well. I think that's important. ...It pays off in the long run."
The team made the added step ofso that Jarwin can focus on making plays, which serves as yet another nod to McCarthy's plan for the 25-year-old. Unlike in 2018 when the Cowboys ran a committee approach in the absence of a retired Witten, the 2020 season will see Jarwin as the definitive TE1 in the second iteration of the post-Witten era in Dallas. All signs point to him likely , and he's champing at the bit to make it so.
Don't count on him putting his feet up simply because he landed his new contract. He's instead, and not so coincidentally, taken on Witten's approach to achieving greatness.
"I'm excited for the task," he said. "I'm grateful that they believe in me to be the future of the tight end positon. It's my job to never be content with that. To just say, 'I got a great deal now and I can coast.' That's never been my approach and that won't be approach in the future.
"Now I have to push myself even harder and prove that I deserve what they gave me."