Backup tight end John Phillips agreed to a three-year contract with the San Diego Chargers, ending his four-year stay in Dallas.
Phillips, 25, was a sixth-round pick of the Cowboys in 2009. He caught 30 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns in three seasons on the field, having missed the entire 2010 season with a torn ACL in his right knee.
It marks the second consecutive off-season the Cowboys have had to replace Jason Witten’s backup. Martellus Bennett departed as a free agent a year ago, leaving for the Giants. Bennett signed with the Bears Tuesday as a free agent after only one season in New York.
Dallas drafted James Hanna in the sixth round last year, and Hanna played in 107 plays to 333 for Phillips. But in the final four games, Hanna’s playing time increased. He played 52 plays in the last four games, while Phillips played 55.
The Cowboys wanted to keep Phillips, but with only $175,000 in cap room, they were not in position to retain him. It means the Cowboys will look for a veteran tight end to join Witten and Hanna. Colin Cochart and Andre Smith are the other tight ends currently on the roster.
Dallas has no one left from the 2009 draft class, with linebacker Victor Butler a free agent who is not expected to return.
RELATED: Former Dallas Cowboys TEs go quickly in free agency
IRVING, Texas – Most tight ends wouldn’t get much playing time behind Jason Witten. As the start of free agency would indicate, that doesn’t mean the players sitting behind Witten lacked talent.
Three former Cowboys tight ends reportedly signed with new teams just one hour into the start of free agency Tuesday at 3 p.m. CT, with Anthony Fasano going to the Chiefs, Martellus Bennett going to the Bears and John Phillips heading to the Chargers.
Phillips is the latest backup tight end to leave Dallas, heading to San Diego after three seasons with the Cowboys. A knee injury forced him out for the 2010 season, but he suited up for all 16 games in 2009, 2011 and 2012. He wasn’t much of a threat in the passing game in his last season in Dallas, catching eight passes on 10 targets for 55 yards and a touchdown, but he could be productive with more looks.
Though Phillips will still be behind Antonio Gates on the depth chart, the Chargers clearly hope he’ll have a similar jump in statistics as the previous backup tight ends that left Dallas.
Fasano began his career in Dallas in 2006, hauled in 14 catches apiece in 2006 and 2007. He compiled 126 receiving yards his rookie season and 143 receiving yards and a touchdown his second year. Fasano finished with at least 332 yards and two touchdowns in each of his next five seasons, all in Miami.
Bennett never really panned out in Dallas after a rookie season with 20 catches, 283 yards and four touchdowns, though the untapped potential was always there. He had his best season last year with the Giants, grabbing 55 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns. He also had 90 targets in 2012, which was three times more than he had in three of his four seasons with the Cowboys.
IRVING, Texas – Laurent Robinson only got one year into his five-year, $32.5 million deal he signed last season, which guaranteed him $14 million.
It was a bold, hopeful move when the Jaguars gave him the charitable deal after his best professional season, finding the end zone on 11 of his 54 catches with the Cowboys in 2011. He only had four touchdowns in his previous four seasons, and his 858 yards in Dallas nearly doubled his receiving total from every previous year.
Robinson finished with just 24 catches, 252 yards, no touchdowns and a fumble for the Jaguars in 2012, but he only played in seven games after a whopping four concussions last season. He passed a physical for the Jaguars before his release, but even if he can pass a physical for his next team as well, his NFL future remains hazy.
Still, an offer to rejoin the Cowboys wouldn’t seem farfetched. He had chemistry with Tony Romo that he hadn’t found in any other quarterback since getting drafted by Atlanta in the third round in 2007.
He knows he won’t cash in the same way he did last season, when the Cowboys wouldn’t match the tremendous deal from Jacksonville for a third option. But the Cowboys could use his services once again, even with Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley on the rise, particularly considering Miles Austin’s health situation last year.
Whether or not Robinson is healthy enough to play is one thing. But for a cap strapped team in free agency, he wouldn’t be a poor addition if weeks or months down the line he chooses to return to Dallas for a much heftier bargain than what the Cowboys would have paid last year.
RELATED: Laurent Robinson’s NFL future clouded by concussions
Following four concussions during a four-month span in 2012, Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Laurent Robinson acknowledged to NFL Network’s Andrea Kremer that his NFL future is cloudy.
Still experiencing symptoms, Robinson remains sensitive to light and cannot be around his crying infant daughter because of the “throbbing” headaches. The aftereffects have been severe enough that Robinson won’t go to the grocery store or even take out the trash during daylight hours.
Robinson concedes that it was the “wrong decision” to keep coming back last season after the first couple of concussions, but he’s still turning to hyperbaric-chamber sessions and resistance flexibility training in an effort to alleviate the symptoms and continue his football career. The Jaguars have simply told Robinson to stay home and rest his brain this offseason.
Although Robinson is tentatively allowing himself two more concussions before cutting the cord on his football career, his conscientious wife, Kat, is taking a more cautious approach.
“I’m worried every day that it’s going to affect our future,” Kat said. “I said one more concussion, you need to be done … I thought how are you going to try to compromise with me on your health, and your brain, and a concussion.”
It’s been two and a half months since Robinson last played an NFL game. It’s an ominous sign that his life is still adversely affected by the concussion symptoms.
“The players know when they sign up for this in the NFL that they’re susceptible to getting injuries,” Robinson said. “I don’t know if it’s worth it or not. I’ve been playing for six years and I want to continue to play, but I still want to live until I’m 80, 90 years old.”
Courtesy: Chris Wesseling | NFL.com