Report: Jason Witten has informed Cowboys he's retiring to take ESPN offer

Tight end Jason Witten has informed Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett that he is retiring – this according to ESPN Cowboys reporter Todd Archer.

Archer cites multiple sources for the news, which comes right on deadline: on Sunday, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that Witten would decide by Wednesday whether to retire or keep playing.

What’s next for Witten?

Witten, who will turn 36-years-old on Sunday, is joining the very men who have been reporting on him: ESPN. The network has offered him a position with its “Monday Night Football” broadcast, ostensibly replacing Jon Gruden, who left his analyst role earlier this year to return to coaching.

According to the Dallas Morning News, ESPN offered Witten a multi-year offer that will pay him $4-4.5 million annually; he was slated to make just over $1 million in base salary in 2018, and Jones had tried to talk him into continuing his playing career.

A second television network also reportedly made a late pitch to Witten.

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NFL players who retired over the 2018 offseason
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NFL players who retired over the 2018 offseason

Nick Mangold, C, New York Jets

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James Harrison, LB, New England Patriots

(Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Richie Incognito, G, Buffalo Bills

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Gabe Ikard, C, Saints

(Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)

Emmett Cleary, T, Lions

(Photo by: 2017 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Rodney Adams, WR, Indianapolis Colts

(Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Joe Berger, G, Minnesota Vikings

(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Danny Woodhead, RB, Baltimore Ravens

(Photo by Ron Elkman/Sports Imagery/ Getty Images)

C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Houston Texans

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Joe Thomas, T, Cleveland Browns

(Photo by: 2017 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Paul Posluszny, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars

(Photo by Logan Bowles/Getty Images)

Zach Strief, T, New Orleans Saints

(Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Antonio Cromartie, CB, Indianapolis Colts

(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Matt Forte, RB, New York Jets

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Donnie Jones, P, Philadelphia Eagles (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

David Harris, LB, New England Patriots

(Photo by Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals

(Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Dwight Freeney, DE, Indianapolis Colts

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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It wasn’t easy

Despite the pay disparity, the chance to try his hand at something new and the opportunity to preserve his health by ending his playing career, Archer writes that “Witten struggled with the decision for the last week.”

A third-round pick out of Tennessee in 2003, Witten was remarkably dependable and reliable during his career: he missed just one of a possible 240 regular-season games, in his rookie year.

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Witten’s 1,152 career catches are second-most all-time for a tight end, behind only Tony Gonzalez, and fourth-most in NFL history, behind Jerry Rice, Gonzalez and Larry Fitzgerald.

He is the Cowboys’ all-time leader in receiving yards, with 12,448.

He caught at least one pass in every game from Week 10 of the 2008 season to Week 13 of 2016, a span of 130 games.

Witten is an 11-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro. He was also the 2012 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year.

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