Mike Mayock: Jason Witten is on Mount Rushmore of TEs and can still play

Sport

The Cowboys didn’t say it out loud, but they chose to move on from Jason Witten. Otherwise, the tight end still would be on the team’s roster.

Instead, Witten has joined the Raiders.

For the first time since his rookie season in 2003, Witten will serve in a backup role on the field.

Witten, who turns 38 next month, unretired last season and made 63 catches for 529 yards and four touchdowns. He started all 16 games and played 845 snaps, which was 75 percent of the team’s offensive plays.

It seems likely he will play less than that this season behind Darren Waller, who made 90 catches for 1,145 yards and three touchdowns in 2019.

But the Raiders signed Witten not only because they believe he will take on a leadership role, but because they believe he still has something left.

“Here’s the way I look at it, and I think Jon [Gruden] and I looked at it the same way: If there’s a Mt. Rushmore of NFL tight ends, he’s on it,” Raiders General Manager Mike Mayock said on a conference call Tuesday. “I know he’s 37 years old, and I know we have a pretty good tight end room, but when you talk about bringing in a guy like him, not only can he still play — he had over 60 catches but blocked the backside — he’s still a competitive football player. But on top of that, he brings this wealth of knowledge about how to be a professional.

“You guys got tired of me talking about foundation players last year and the locker room and culture, and that’s what this guy is. He’s the quintessential culture guy, and we plug him in our locker room, and we’ve got one more veteran that can look around the room and tell people, with all that experience, what to do and what not to do. Tell people what to do and what not to do. And more importantly, the tight end room, you get a guy like Foster [Moreau] coming off the ACL, hopefully he’s going to be 100 percent Day One, but if he’s not, we’ve got a conventional Y that can play. Plus, we’ve got a guy in that tight end room that I think is going to help the young guys, and I’m talking about all of them. . . . We just thought it was too good of an opportunity both for our locker room and for our tight end room, and by the way, the guy can still play a little bit.”