Cowboys lose John Phillips to Chargers

IRVING, Texas -- Unable to do any real shopping in free agency Tuesday, the Cowboys lost their first player to the open market when tight end John Phillips agreed to a three-year deal with San Diego, according to a source.

Phillips will go from backing up one of the NFL’s best tight ends in Jason Witten to another in the Chargers' Antonio Gates.

Phillips caught eight passes for 55 yards and a touchdown last season while making eight starts. He took over as the No. 2 tight end in 2012 when Martellus Bennett left in free agency, but his playing time decreased later in the season in favor of rookie James Hanna.

The Cowboys would have liked to have kept Phillips, a sixth-round pick in 2009, but they were not willing to spend much. Phillips caught 30 passes for 218 yards and two scores in 48 games. He missed the 2010 season with a knee injury.

The Cowboys are in the market for a veteran tight end behind Witten, with Hanna and Colin Cochart and Andre Smith currently on the roster.