AP source: Cowboys' Jason Witten retiring, heading to ESPN

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Jason Witten never even hinted his 15th season with the Dallas Cowboys would be the tight end's last, suggesting as recently as two weeks ago that he intended to return.

The offer from ESPN was too good to pass up.

A person with knowledge of the decision said Witten informed Cowboys owner Jerry Jones today he was retiring, choosing a role as lead analyst on "Monday Night Football" over standing alone as the longest-tenured player in the storied history of the franchise.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the decision hasn't been announced. Witten informed the team six days after ESPN's website cited sources it didn't identify in revealing Witten's plan.

His move comes a year after friend and longtime teammate Tony Romo retired as the Cowboys' all-time passing leader to become the lead analyst at CBS.

This one was different, though. The Cowboys were anticipating a 16th season from Witten – and 15th straight as their starter. Last year, Romo had lost his job to Dak Prescott while injured and was deciding whether to continue his career with another team.

The Cowboys released Romo the same day of his CBS announcement in April 2017. After joining Dallas together in 2003, the pair never made it to the Super Bowl or an NFC championship game.

"There's not always a fairy-tale end," Witten said near the end of last season. "I realize that."

Just days from turning 36, Witten walks away as the leader in games, catches and yards receiving for a franchise with five Super Bowl wins, but none since the 1995 season.

Tony Gonzalez and Witten are the only tight ends in NFL history with at least 1,000 catches and 10,000 yards. Gonzalez is eligible for Pro Football Hall of Fame induction for the first time next year, which should be a good barometer for Witten's chances.

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