On the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft, news broke regarding the expected retirement of Dallas Cowboys‘ tight end Jason Witten. In prior weeks, there has been speculation about ESPN targeting Witten for their opening on Monday Night Football. Despite the rumors, Witten remained committed to the Cowboys. Just two weeks ago, Witten stated that he was focused on the football team and expressed his desire to play into his 40s. Today, that no longer seems to be the case.
Jason Witten Will Retire for Monday Night Football
The Cowboys’ all-time leader in receiving yards and receptions, who turns 36 next month, has seen a decrease in production in recent years. After averaging 11 yards-per-catch for most of his career, Witten has averaged under 10 yards-a-catch the last three seasons – including a career-low 8.9 in 2017. In an off-season that witnessed Trey Burton receive a four-year, $32 million deal from the Chicago Bears, it is safe to say that the NFL has begun to move towards highly athletic tight ends who can double as slot receivers.
— ESPN (@espn) April 27, 2018
Dallas’ Future Situation
Witten has amassed 1,152 career receptions while in Dallas – the fourth most in NFL history. The remaining tight ends on the roster have combined for nine career receptions. This includes Blake Jarwin (0), Rico Gathers (0), and Geoff Swaim (9). While the team has expressed confidence in Jarwin, who was signed to the roster late last season, he has yet to record a catch. Gathers, a collegiate basketball player who displays all the physical tools to be a force in the NFL, remains a project. The new receiving leader for tight ends, Swaim, is regarded as a blocking tight end and won’t be expected to replace Witten.
NFL’s all-time receptions leaders:
— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) April 27, 2018
The announcement of Witten’s retirement comes later than the Cowboys would like, but luckily the NFL Draft hasn’t concluded. Dallas could still utilize their remaining nine picks, including picks number 50 and 81, to select Witten’s replacement. The available tight ends in the draft include South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert, Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki, Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews, and Indiana tight end Ian Thomas.
— FOX 4 Sports (@KDFWsports) April 27, 2018
Witten is among the greatest to represent the Cowboys and is undoubtedly a lock for the Hall of Fame. There are few players who could provide the excellence Witten supplied for 15 years. Yet, Witten remained among one of the greatest players, men, and leaders the NFL has seen in its history.
Despite the declining play, Dallas fans are saddened today by the news of Witten’s retirement. In two short years, Cowboys supporters have witnessed Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and now Witten end their Cowboy careers. It is the end of an era for the Cowboys’ legends; An ending that many thought, and hoped, would come much, much later.