ESPN surveyed each of its NFL team writers for their “bold” offseason prognostications, and Cowboys reporter Todd Archer seems to believe Witten might resurface at The Star in 2020 — as the enemy.
“At the end of 2019, Witten said he would make a quick decision on his future, which led many to think he would retire and potentially get into coaching,” Archer wrote. “He still hasn’t made one, which brings the playing element into focus. Witten is the franchise leader in length of service, games played, catches and receiving yards. He is one shy of equaling Dez Bryant’s team record for touchdown catches. He is a Cowboy through and through. The Cowboys like Blake Jarwin’s development and could look to add a tight end early in the draft. Witten was productive in his return as a blocker and receiver in 2019, but he turns 38 in May and the arrival of Mike McCarthy as coach could mean the right time for an amicable separation.”
An impending free agent, Witten unretired last offseason for a second (and perhaps final) stint with Dallas, the only team he’s known in 17 years as a pro. After a nondescript 2019 campaign in which he caught 63 passes for 529 yards and four touchdowns — his lowest output since his 2003 rookie season — he watched as the Cowboys changed regimes, firing Jason Garrett and hiring Mike McCarthy.
One rumor has Witten taking his talents to the New York Giants, where he’d work under former Dallas head coach-turned-Big Blue offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Another suggests the 38-year-old (in May) will walk away from the game to begin a coaching career or perhaps rejoin the broadcast booth.
To that extent, he remains undecided.
“I’m not sure yet,” he told Heavy during Super Bowl week. “I’m not sure what I’ll do next, but it will definitely still involve football being at the forefront.”
The Patriots, Steelers, Colts, and Redskins are among teams that enter the offseason in need of tight end help. That’s not to say they’ll jump at the chance to sign Witten, but he’ll at least receive some feelers on the open market.
As for the Cowboys, like Archer mentioned, they’re slated to move forward with Jarwin as the new starter, though they too might prioritize the position in the weeks ahead.
The club should expect Witten to announce his plans prior to March 18, the official start of free agency. And at this point, it’d be a surprise if he hasn’t logged his last down in a silver and blue uniform.
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NFL Expert Legitimizes Witten as Future Head Coach
While Witten ponders his next move, there’s momentum pushing the future Hall-of-Fame pass-catcher to swap his cleats for a headset.
FOX Sports NFL insider Jay Glazer, who’s as plugged-in as they come, recently divulged to SB Nation that he can see Witten transitioning from player to coach — someday.
anyone else most others, Glazer explained, Witten probably would have to start out fetching coffee before angling for a head-coaching gig. But it’s certainly within the realm of possibility.
“So Witt needs to understand, if he’s going to get into coaching, he needs to start as a grunt,” Glazer said last month during pre-Super Bowl festivities in Miami. “I think he thinks that he knows everything that goes on in the coaching world. He’s got to start literally as almost a quality control guy, work your way up. Cause then he’s going to do himself a disservice if he doesn’t. So he needs to really kind of learn from the very bottom rung and walk up that ladder, and I think he eventually he can be a head coach, yeah.”
At one point, Witten was speculated as a longshot candidate to succeed Garrett as Dallas’ head man. That didn’t happen, obviously.
Then it was presumed he may stick around as the club’s new tight ends coach, working under McCarthy. That didn’t happen, as the Cowboys imported Lunda Wells from the G-Men.
Then, based on the aforementioned Giants speculation, some thought he may land in the Big Apple and coach TEs there. That didn’t happen, either, as New York settled on former Browns HC Freddie Kitchens to serve in that capacity.
Which brings us to today, and Witten presumably being no closer to making a call on 2020 than he was months ago. Tick-tock goes the clock …
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL