“I had a great conversation with Jason and he’s got a number of things he’s thinking about,” McCarthy said Thursday, via the team’s official website. “I think that’s what he’s working through right now.”
Witten turns 38 in May and “speculation,” per the Cowboys’ in-house media arm, points to the graybeard tight end retiring again — permanently. But no decision has been made as he mulls his options, which include a potential foray into coaching.
Speaking last month, Witten, who’s spent 43 percent of his mortal life as a professional tight end, and 100 percent of his big-league tenure with the Cowboys, admitted that he may be approaching his final game in Dallas but not necessarily the last game of his illustrious career.
“Sure, it’s a possibility,” Witten said on Dec. 26, per ESPN.com. “I’m aware of that, but really, one of the things when I came back to play I was committed to going out there and playing every game and opportunity. So fortunate to do it. There will be time to make that decision, but I do not envision this being my last game.”
Witten is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after signing a one-year, $4.25 million contract during the 2019 offseason, ending his retirement and brief (albeit mostly disastrous) stint as a commenter for Monday Night Football. He said last month he’ll be “pretty quick” about announcing his next chapter.
Witten finished his 16th season as the team’s third-leading receiver with 63 catches for 529 yards and four touchdowns. The numbers appear decent on the surface, but they actually represent a downturn on his 2018 stats (63/560/5), which in itself was the second-lowest output of his career behind only his rookie season — in 2003.
But despite his marginal production and the Cowboys’ disappointing 8-8 record, Witten doesn’t regret his second — and likely final — stint in North Texas.
“Look, it doesn’t always go where you’re going to get a 13-3 (record) and a (No. 1) seed and a bye and home playoff games throughout,” he said, via ESPN. “Sure, you think about playing in those games and that’s what drives you is winning championships. I knew for this to be successful, it’s kind of like a quarterback: you’ve got to win games. But I’m proud of the way I played and still have an opportunity in front of us. Yeah, 100 percent, I’ve got conviction (that) it was the right thing to do and proud of the way I’ve gone about it.”
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Future in Coaching?
There is, and has been, a growing belief that Witten could end his playing career but avoid the pitfalls of television analysis. Rather than jump inside the booth, where it’s been-there-done-that, he’d stick around on the sidelines, coaching the Cowboys’ (or another team’s) tight ends (or another positional group), working his up the assistant ladder.
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones fanned those flames last month, effusively endorsing Witten and veteran linebacker Sean Lee as future headset-wearers.
“Of all the network executives, commissioners, fellow owners, players, and coaches that I’ve met in the NFL, those two would probably be in my top five,” Jones said, via beat reporter Brianna Dix.
Dallas recently hired a new tight ends coach, poaching Lunda Wells from the New York Giants, but McCarthy didn’t outright dismiss Witten or Lee joining his staff in some capacity.
“Conversations for the future,” McCarthy said.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL