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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / After one season off Jason Witten returns to the Dallas Cowboys

After one season off Jason Witten returns to the Dallas Cowboys

Witten returns!
Publish Date: 03/01/2019
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster

Things are happening in Jerry land! After a season spent unsuccessfully trying to transition to the broadcast booth, Jason Witten is leaving ESPN’s Monday Night Football to rejoin his former team. Witten reportedly signed a one-year deal worth $3.5 million but incentives that could raise that total to five million.

Witten, when he decides to retire a second time, will likely be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. In his 15-year career, all of which he spent with the Cowboys, Witten became one of the most successful tight ends in NFL history. He has 1,620 receptions, 12,448 receiving yards, and 68 receiving touchdowns during his career. Those numbers rank 4th, 21st, and 47th respectively among the all-time receiving ranks. He has the second most receptions and receiving yards by a tight end in NFL history, trailing only Tony Gonzalez in both categories. Witten is also one of the most distinguished Cowboys in history. He owns franchise records in receptions, receiving yards, and games played.

The 11-time Pro Bowler and two-time First Team All-Pro is going to have to prove himself in his return though. Witten will be turning 37 in 2019, the same age where fellow all-time great tight end, Antonio Gates’ production took a steep fall. At age 36 Gates recorded 53 receptions, 548 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns. In the following year though, his production dropped to 30 receptions, 316 receiving yards, and three touchdowns. 2018 would have been Witten’s age 36 season, but without data, we’ll have to look at his age 35 season. That year he produced 63 receptions, 560 receiving yards, and five touchdowns. Those numbers are very similar to Gates’ age 36 totals. If Witten follows the same trend as Gates, then 2019 could be a letdown season for the tight end. Of course, maybe a year off refreshed him and he’ll come back and put up another solid year. It’s hard to say which situation will be the case.

We do know that the Cowboys need help at tight end though. Dallas made use of primarily of four tight ends in 2018. These tight ends included Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Geoff Swaim, and Rico Gathers. These four amassed just 68 receptions, 710 receiving yards, and four receiving touchdowns in 2018. Witten has passed the 710 yards mark eleven times in his career and has recorded more than 68 receptions ten times. While it’s a stretch to expect him to cross those barriers in 2019, he can at least beef up the tight end corps. When you’re playing in a league where players like George Kittle are catching 1,377 yards worth of passes all by themselves, you can’t afford to have a mediocre tight end group. We’ll see if Witten can add a spark to the Cowboys offense in 2019.

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