Jason Witten actually retiring, what it means for Cowboys and his Hall of Fame chances

We already knew this was happening, but Jason Witten is retiring from the NFL and heading to ESPN to join the "Monday Night Football" broadcast. The Cowboys tight end has informed owner Jerry Jones that he is calling it a career, according to a report from ESPN

With the 2018 NFL Draft about to unfold last week, we learned that Witten would be retiring or was at least planning to retire. The Cowboys actually tried to bring him back, attempting to convince Witten to return as Dak Prescott's safety blanket.

But it appears the allure of the broadcast booth is too much: "MNF" is open with Jon Gruden returning to the Raiders as their coach, leaving one of the premiere spots in broadcasting for the NFL open. 

Witten likely saw this as his only opportunity to leap from the field into the top tier of the broadcast booth. We have our CBS slot filled with Witten's old teammate Tony Romo, Cris Collinsworth is cemented at NBC and Troy Aikman's got FOX on lockdown. If Witten wanted to get in the door on a major network, this was his opportunity.

What It Means For the Cowboys

Dallas is moving to a more "Dak Friendly" offense, but it's going to be interesting to see how it actually unfolds. With Dez Bryant and Witten gone from Dallas, the top options for the Cowboys are Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley. Dallas also drafted Michael Gallup in the third round; it's a lot to ask of him just to slide in year one and replace Dez. 

Maybe it ends up being a more structured offense with less playground potential and that's better for Dak -- Patrik Walker of 247 Sports and I discuss just that on Friday's Pick Six Podcast -- but at the end of the day, you need to have talent around your quarterback.

Expect the Cowboys to lean HEAVILY on Ezekiel Elliott and the beefed-up offensive line, now with Connor Williams added through the draft, and try to run the ball the way they did back in 2016 when this team went 13-3 on the backs of its two dynamic rookies.

If that happens, it's conceivable the Cowboys are back on top of the NFC East, but if they struggle to run the ball, things could get ugly for Dak given what's left in his receiving corps. 

Is Jason Witten a Hall of Famer?

Oh yeah. And it's not remotely close. He's fourth all time among EVERYONE when it comes to receptions. Witten was not a shooting star player; he never led the league in receptions, receiving yards or touchdowns. But from 2004 through 2017 he averaged 80 catches per season. That's an absurd number for anyone over that period of time, much less a tight end. 

Witten saw it all in Dallas -- he was there when Bill Parcells was running the show, he had secret meetings with Romo according to Terrell Owens, he went on an infamous trip to Cabo with Romo before the Cowboys lost in the playoffs and he helped in the transition from Romo to Dak. 

He also did it all while being an exceptional teammate and leader in the locker room, not to mention his off-field service. Witten, a third-round pick in 2003, was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2012. He also made 11 Pro Bowls, was a two-time All-Pro and holds the Cowboys records for most career receptions and most career receiving yards. 

Expect him to be a first-ballot HOF guy, and expect an interesting comparison between Witten and Antonio Gates should the long-time Chargers tight end walk away this offseason as well. 

Don't be surprised either if Witten is excellent in the booth: he's got a Eastern Tennessee/Texas twang that should fit well with the MNF booth regardless of who he's paired with, and it wouldn't be surprising if he was getting some advice from Romo on how to make the transition. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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