Jason Witten, the greatest tight end in Dallas Cowboys history, is retiring.
According to multiple media reports, Witten told the Cowboys on Thursday morning that he is leaving the team for ESPN and Monday Night Football after 15 seasons with the team, confirm a rumor that had circulated for more than a week. Witten is expected to provide color commentary alongside new play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore.
Monday Night Football's former broadcast team, Sean McDonough and Jon Gruden, departed after the 2017 season. Gruden returned to coaching, taking over the Oakland Raiders, and McDonough will call college football games next year.
During his tenure, Witten racked up 12,448 receiving yards and caught 68 touchdown passes from quarterbacks as good as Tony Romo, as bad as Brandon Weeden and eight others in between. Dez Bryant threw Witten a touchdown pass on a wide receiver option in 2016 for good measure, too.
Since the Cowboys selected him with the 69th pick of the 2003 draft, Witten has been the team's only constant presence. He missed one game because of injury during his rookie season, then never missed another over his last 14 seasons, playing in 235 consecutive Cowboys contests.
Witten will be best remembered from his rumbling, 56-yard catch against the Eagles in 2007, during which he lost his helmet and, as he always did, kept playing.
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As impressive as that catch was, Witten's most important play for the Cowboys came in 2014, when his fourth-and-6 reception late in the fourth quarter against the Lions keyed his and Romo's second ever playoff victory.
Jason Witten is officially retiring from the NFL after 15 seasons to join the MNF crew. Thank you for everything, Big Witt!— Cowboys Gameday (@CowboysGameday_) April 27, 2018
RT to thank Jason Witten. pic.twitter.com/LPRk8xaZck
Witten never played in an NFC Championship Game, much less a Super Bowl, but he never took off a game or a snap. When the Cowboys were bad, he was Vinny Testaverde's best option on third down. When they were good, he was Romo's or Dak Prescott's favorite option on third down. His blocking ability made him a complete tight end.
Moving forward, the Cowboys have one very intriguing project on their tight-end depth chart, Rico Gathers, a coach's favorite, Oklahoma State product Blake Jarwin and Dalton Schultz, picked in the fourth round of last week's draft. Whoever steps up will do so into big shoes.