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Jason Witten ends retirement, will return to Cowboys

Jason Witten's retirement from football and broadcasting career lasted less than a calendar year.

Witten, who announced his retirement on May 3, 2018 to join ESPN's "Monday Night Football" as an analyst, announced Thursday he is returning for a 16th season with the Dallas Cowboys.

"The fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong," the tight end said in a statement, via the Cowboys' official website. "This team has a great group of rising young stars, and I want to help them make a run at a championship. This was completely my decision, and I am very comfortable with it. I'm looking forward to getting back in the dirt."

The Cowboys also enticed Witten with a financial incentive. Witten will receive up to $5 million to come out of retirement, a source told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. Witten's deal has a base value of $3.5 million, Rapoport adds.

"I think Jason Witten] felt like there was still some meat on the bone, some things he wanted to accomplish," [Jason Garrett said per the Dallas Morning News. "I think he loves it and he wants to be in this environment. There's no doubt in his mind he can still play. There's no doubt in my mind he can still play."

With the veteran tight end's return, the Cowboys' passing attack just got a little better.

Witten, who turns 37 on May 6, entered the league in 2003 as a third-round pick with the Cowboys and went on to spend 15 seasons in Dallas, where he was a two-time All-Pro selection and an 11-time Pro Bowler.

Before announcing he was stepping away from football last season, Witten amassed 1,152 catches for 12,488 yards and 68 touchdowns. He ranks fourth all-time in NFL career receptions behind Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice (1,549), Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez (1,325) and Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (1,303).

Witten's departure last year left a void at the tight end position and in the Cowboys' offense, which entered training camp without reliable options given the absences of Witten and wide receiver Dez Bryant, who was released during the offseason.

Dallas addressed the wide receiver position by adding Michael Gallup in the draft and trading for Amari Cooper during the regular season before the trade deadline. The tight end spot, however, failed to produce consistency that the Cowboys were accustomed to with Witten, as Blake Jarwin led the position group with 27 catches for 307 yards and three touchdowns.

Witten's return should be welcomed with open arms by quarterback Dak Prescott and the entire Cowboys organization.

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