The Pittsburgh Steelers reportedly converted the bulk of injured linebacker Ryan Shazier’s 2018 salary into a signing bonus Thursday.
As we trend toward a split in styles of tight ends, with some of the next generation serving as pure pass-catchers acquired for defensive mismatches and all but ditching blocking responsibilities, Witten was a model of both. He blocked willingly and effectively, and cleared the way for four 1,000-yard rushers (DeMarco Murray did it twice in 2013 and 2014) during his 15-year career in Dallas.
Witten served as a reliable target at a variety of depths, finishing with the fourth most career receptions in NFL history (1,152). He also finished first in Cowboys history in career receptions (leading Michael Irvin by 452 grabs) and receiving yards (12,448, the second most of a tight end in NFL history), and third in receiving touchdowns with 68. Witten’s 11 Pro Bowl appearances were bested only by Gonzalez, who finished with 14.
Safety: Jaquiski Tartt is ideal for the strong starting spot, but free safety Eric Reid was unsigned. Seventh-rounder Adrian Colbert played OK as a rookie through six starts, but there’s nothing spectacular yet about his playmaking. Jimmie Ward, who’s better off at either corner or nickel back, isn’t an answer. The 49ers could use a versatile, more adept cover man.
Offensive line: Richburg takes care of center, but at left guard Laken Tomlinson and Jonathan Cooper are makeshift retreads. At right guard, Joshua Garnett, a 2016 first-rounder, didn’t play at all in ’17 after knee surgery. And while left tackle Joe Staley needs a successor soon, he and right tackle Trent Brown were terrific together last season, which makes the interior a much bigger priority.
Bowles was later asked if the Jets would consider carrying just two QBs during the 2018 season, presumably McCown and Darnold while potentially cutting ties eventually with Bridgewater and Hackenberg.
We’re open to anything right now, Bowles said. We’re going to let it all play out before we make those kinds of decisions.