Cowboys position series: Tight ends

This is the fourth installment of a 12-part series breaking down the Cowboys roster. Today we look at tight ends.

Players: Jason Witten (signed through 2017), Martellus Bennett (free agent), John Phillips (signed through 2012)

Top free agents: Martellus Bennett, Dallas Cowboys; John Carlson, Seattle Seahawks; Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers; Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars; Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota Vikings

Top draft prospects: Coby Fleener, Stanford; Dwayne Allen, Clemson; Orson Charles, Georgia; Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Layayette; Michael Egnew, Missouri

2011 review: First the good news: Bennett will not return. He didn't like how he was being used in the offense and his locker room and off-the-field antics rubbed some in the organization the wrong way. Now the bad news: Bennett was the Cowboys' best blocking tight end and most athletic. He will find a home. More good news: Witten returns for his 10th season and is in line to have the longest tenure on the team if Bradie James and Terence Newman don't return. He's a professional and despite not making the Pro Bowl last season, led the team in catches (79) and receiving yards (942). Phillips was average last season, after coming off knee surgery.

Offseason preview: Free agency isn't the way to go here because the class is top heavy with world-class talent. The draft is a possibility and a mid-to-late round pick could be the answer. Green might be around on the third day and he's worth looking at. The Cowboys want tight ends who can block well and are not afraid to mix it up. Witten is the perfect example of how to do that.

Bryan Broaddus' Scout's Eye: It's hard to believe that Witten will be playing in his 10th season for the Cowboys. The Cowboys need to work on finding the next tight end who will be reliable and productive like Witten has been. I am not saying that Witten is done, but it would be a nice time to start finding a replacement. It's a shame that Bennett played at a higher level toward the end of the season so other teams would have decent film to watch when he becomes a free agent. Don't fool yourself into thinking that Bennett was this great run blocker because he wasn't. There were times he was good but not as good as he could have been. His career in Dallas will always have me wondering "what if." Phillips should be better than he was in 2011 coming off knee surgery. He is a productive player run or pass. Shaun Chapas was drafted last season, but I don't see the necessary skills. If the Cowboys get an extra pick in the middle of the draft, it could be a good time to look at tight ends.

Need meter (0-5): 4