Jason Witten knows the business side of football

IRVING, Texas -- If there's one thing this lockout has taught us, it's that players are getting a better understanding of the business side of the NFL.

Which takes us to Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and his San Diego Chargers counterpart Antonio Gates.

Both players are considered elite at their position. In the last three seasons, Witten has more catches (269-to-189), yards (2,984-to-2,643) and first downs (147-to-142) than Gates.

"You're always trying to find ways to get better and there's no better place to work than, turn on the film and watch 85," Witten said of Gates. "There's a sense of coverages coming that way, I get coverages rolled that way and he gets it too. The last few years, he's been able to put up a lot of good numbers and the consistency to do it year in and year out, it's hard to find a [better] tight end and I have much respect for him."

Yet Gates is paid more. Last year, he signed a five-year extension worth $36.1 million with a $20.4 million signing bonus making him the highest paid tight end in the NFL.

Witten has two years remaining on his contract. He's scheduled to get a base salary of $3.39 million this season and $3.64 million next year. Witten is on his second NFL contract, in 2006 he became the highest-paid tight end when he inked a seven-year $29.5 million deal with $12 million in guarantees.

"It's a big part of it," Witten said regarding the contracts between him and Gates. "Don't kid yourself on that, but I think, the same with him, it will be in due time."