The Dallas Cowboys are in the national spotlight (as usual) this week, hosting the NFL Draft. The team, the city, and Jerry Jones are all the talk of the NFL.
Leave it to the Cowboys to upstage themselves.
Longtime Cowboys tight end Jason Witten reportedly will retire and become lead analyst on Monday Night Football, replacing Jon Gruden, who left to take over as coach of the Oakland Raiders. The report says it is not official, but all indications are Witten’s football career is over.
Witten, who turns 36 on May 6, will have played 15 years in the NFL. He recently had stated he planned to play “until he was 40.” Apparently those plans changed when the Monday Night Football gig became available.
If the reports are true, Witten ends his likely Hall of Fame career as the Cowboys all-time leader in receptions (1,152), receiving yards (12,448), games played (239) and third in touchdowns (68). He was selected to 11 Pro Bowls and is fourth all-time in receiving yards in the NFL, second all-time among tight ends.
That it would happen during the draft at least allows the Cowboys to address the position over the next two days. On April 27, they selected Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch with their first-round pick.
If Witten is leaving, it will represent yet another big name departing during what is clearly a transition time for the franchise. Last year, Tony Romo retired to the broadcast booth. Recently the Cowboys cut longtime star receiver Dez Bryant. And Witten is the most accomplished of them all. It’s clear that this is now Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot’s team.
The draft will continue in Dallas through April 29, but in true Cowboys fashion, it will take a back seat to an even bigger story involving the team: the retirement of an all-time great.
Fred Faour is the editor of SportsMap Houston.