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.
-- Charean Williams