In an emotional press conference, Cowboys tight end Jason Witten announced his retirement from football. As widely reported over the past week, Witten will be stepping into the broadcast booth for Monday Night Football.
“After much self-reflection, prayer, and faith, I have decided that the time has come for me to pass the torch to the next generation of Dallas Cowboys and retire from the National Football League,” said Witten to a room full of media members, teammates, and family.
Witten entered the league as a third-round pick of the Cowboys in the 2003 NFL Draft. He missed one game as a rookie due to a broken jaw, but otherwise had a flawless attendance record throughout his 15-year career. With 1,152 catches for 12,448 yards and 68 touchdowns and a franchise record of 235 consecutive games played, Witten has a strong case for the Hall of Fame.
Last season wasn’t Witten’s best, but he still had 63 catches for 560 yards and five touchdowns and secured his eleventh Pro Bowl selection as a replacement for Zach Ertz. When Witten informed Jerry Jones of his plan to transition into broadcasting, the Cowboys owner begged him to reconsider and reportedly made it a tough call for the tight end. Ultimately, Witten did not want to miss his opportunity to grab one of the most prestigious broadcasting jobs in the NFL.
Witten’s retirement will leave a serious void in the Cowboys’ locker room, as well as their tight end depth chart. Cowboys EVP Stephen Jones has indicated that the team can get by with a group that includes Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, and Rico Gathers, but it stands to reason that they will also comb the free agent market for tight ends. Antonio Gates stands as the most recognizable TE available in a thinned-out group, but roster cuts between now and September could present some quality options for Dallas.
Witten’s eleven Pro Bowl selections are good for second amongst any tight end in league history, trailing only Tony Gonzalez (14). After that, Gates and Shannon Sharpe are tied for third with eight selections. Given that Sharpe is in the Hall of Fame, it seems probable that Witten is also Canton-bound.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.