Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten would retire as the highest-earning tight end in NFL history if he leaves football this offseason to accept a broadcasting job with ESPN, as multiple outlets reported on Friday.
Witten, 35, is set to retire after ESPN offered him a role as lead analyst on its flagship “Monday Night Football” broadcasts for the 2018 season, ESPN and NFL Network reported. Witten will meet with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to seek his blessing on the career change. While a team source said Witten could still change his mind, ESPN reported “the consensus is that Witten’s impressive football career is coming to an end.”
Witten has earned roughly $72.8 million during 15 NFL seasons, according to Spotrac, which tracks athlete earnings. No other NFL tight end has earned that much money in salary. Future Hall of Fame inductee Tony Gonzalez ranks just behind Witten, with $72.7 million in career earnings, followed by Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis ($70 million) and Los Angeles Chargers star Antonio Gates ($68.5 million.
Neither Witten, ESPN nor the Cowboys has publicly responded to reports of his impending retirement. It’s unclear how much ESPN has offered Witten for the analyst job.
Witten is set to step away from football roughly one year after he signed a 4-year, $29.6 million contract extension with the Cowboys that would have kept him on the team through 2021. The decision to retire is a reversal for Witten, who previously said he would return to the Cowboys for the 2018 season.
A third-round draft choice out of the University of Tennessee in 2003, Witten made 11 Pro Bowl appearances as a member of the Cowboys. He currently ranks 2nd all-time among NFL tight ends in terms of receptions and receiving yards, trailing only Gonzalez.