In the most surprising bit of news this NFL offseason, the Dallas Cowboys have announced that tight end Jason Witten is ending his retirement and is returning to the team.
“The fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong,” Witten said in a statement. “This team has a great group of rising young stars, and I want to help them make a run at a championship. This was completely my decision, and I am very comfortable with it.
“I’m looking forward to getting back in the dirt.”
Witten abruptly retired last year to sign with ESPN, where he was in the broadcast booth for “Monday Night Football.” Though he was often criticized for his analysis, Witten and the network have said they were committed to keeping him in the role.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted that it’s a one year, $3.5 million pact, though NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted that it has a maximum value of $5 million with incentives.
But Witten may not play the major role he once did: Jean-Jacques Taylor of ESPN Dallas 103.3 tweeted that a source informed him that Witten has agreed to a “limited snap role.” In 2017, Witten played 98.6 percent of the offensive snaps; he won’t play that much this time around, though it’s unclear how much smaller that number will be.
In a statement released after the news of Witten’s re-signing with the Cowboys, ESPN said, “We thank Jason for his many contributions to ‘Monday Night Football’ and to ESPN over the past year and wish him continued success.
“We have seen many former coaches and players go into broadcasting before eventually returning to the game they love, so we understand Jason’s desire to return to the Dallas Cowboys. In the coming weeks we will determine our ‘MNF’ plans for the 2019 season.”
A two-time first-team All-Pro, 11-time Pro Bowler and the 2012 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year, Witten is also Dallas’ all-time leader in receptions, with 1,152.
Witten will turn 37 in May.
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