Looks as if Jason Witten could be pulling a Tony Romo.
According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Dallas Morning News’ David Moore, Witten will announce that he is retiring from the Dallas Cowboys after having been one of the top tight ends in the NFL for the past 15 seasons. Witten will then reportedly join ESPN’s Monday Night Football booth as the network’s lead analyst, filling the void left by Jon Gruden, who was hired during the offseason as head coach of the Oakland (soon to be Las Vegas) Raiders.
ESPN declined to comment.
On Friday afternoon, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Witten hasn’t yet made a decision whether he’ll retire or return to the team next season.
“He has some things to think about and discuss with his family from a professional perspective,” Jones told reporters. “He also told me he is going to need some more time for consideration, at least through the weekend. He has not made any decisions that are definite at this time.”
“With respect to Jason and his wishes, that is all we’re going to say regarding that subject for the remainder of the weekend,” Jones added.
— Shawn Clynch (@ShawnC_KVUE) April 27, 2018
On Dallas sports radio Thursday afternoon, vice president Stephen Jones didn’t have any updates on Witten’s future, but also didn’t mention his name among the team’s tight ends heading into next season.
“We feel really good about our tight ends. With what we have on our roster with [Geoff] Swaim, [Blake] Jarwin and Rico [Gathers], we got some really good football players,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan. “We don’t think we’re going into a season without a good tight end.”
Stephen Jones: "We feel really good about our tight ends. With what we have on our roster with Swaim, Jarwin and Rico, we got some really good football players. We don't think we're going into a season without a good tight end." https://t.co/2PVVv69HdX #DallasCowboys
— 105.3 The FAN (@1053thefan) April 27, 2018
The position is arguably one of the most important for ESPN, considering Monday Night Football remains the most-watched program on the network, despite a dip in ratings the past few years. Witten would be just the latest in a long line of former Cowboys players to make the move to the booth, following Romo, Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman and former fullback Daryl Johnston. In fact, if Witten joins Monday Night Football, the lead NFL analysts on ESPN, CBS and FOX would all be former Cowboys players.
Witten, 35, would likely be joined in the booth by Joe Tessitore. The New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reported in March that Tessitore would be taking over for play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough after just two seasons. ESPN announced McDonough would be returning to call college football.
Just last week, Witten told reporters that he was planning to play football in 2018, with the intention of continuing until he was 40.
“There’s been a lot of things [said] over the years, especially the last few months,” Witten said, according to Dallas Morning News reporter Jon Machota. “I guess that’s what happens when you get old. Hopefully I can play until I’m 40. I’ll take it one day at a time. My plan is to be here with the Cowboys. Absolutely.”
If Witten retires, he would end his career in fourth place on the all-time receptions list with 1,152, trailing only Jerry Rice, Tony Gonzalez and Larry Fitzgerald. He’s also the Cowboys’ franchise leader in receiving yards with 12,448, and ranks third in team history with 68 touchdowns. His 152 receptions and 1,642 receiving yards against the Eagles are the most he has against any team.
Eagles tight end Zach Ertz said Witten was his favorite football player growing up, and he has tried to emulate the 10-time Pro Bowler on the field. Witten has also praised Ertz.
“I think he’s just an exceptional player,” Witten said of Ertz in December. “Love how he plays the game, the position… Should have a lot of confidence, because he’s playing at a high level.”
Staff writer Zach Berman contributed to this report.