The Cowboys tight end reiterated that he wants to continue playing but noted he realizes that might mean playing for another team for the first time in his career.
"I just think, yeah, coaching is in my future, but right now, I want to play while I can," Witten said while presenting his Collegiate Man of the Year award at The Star in Frisco Tuesday night, via David Helman of the team's official website. "We'll see where that takes place. Of course, I want that to be with the Dallas Cowboys. I'll always be a Dallas Cowboy. But I also understand that, with all the changes, I may have to go somewhere else."
Witten's comments made it clear he plans to pursue opportunities to continue playing, saying during Super Bowl week that the goal is to "exhaust" every opportunity to play before turning to coaching.
The question is whether teams believe he has anything left in the tank after he returned for his 16th season.
Witten compiled 63 catches for 529 yards with four TDs in his return from the TV booth. It was his fewest yards in a season since his rookie year and the lowest yards per catch (8.4) of his career. The 37-year-old looked every bit of his age last season, often seeming like the Tin Man in need of gobs of oil from Dorothy.
Yet despite the subpar season by his standards, Witten's numbers were enough to rank eighth in receptions and 14th in yards among all tight ends last season. Those stats speak to the futility of depth at the position more than anything.
After watching Greg Olsenagree to a $7 million deal in Seattle, surely Witten thinks someone will give him a shot to play in 2020.
While noting he understands he might have to travel elsewhere, Witten isn't giving up hope his 17th NFL season will be in Dallas.
"Well, it's taken a lot longer than I had hoped for, but I think obviously with so many changes happening inside the [Dallas] building, just working through that," Witten said. "I met with [coach] Mike [McCarthy] early on after he got the job, we had a really good visit. Since then, he's been putting together his staff. I've had constant communication with Stephen [Jones] and Jerry [Jones] along the way. So, I think it's my hope, I think our hope, to kind of have those talks very soon after the combine ends and before free agency. I want to play. I think I want to explore that. I think it's the right fit in the role, and I feel like I still have something to give. I've been on the other side of that and made the decision to retire."
Now all the veteran tight end must do is find a team willing to sign him in 2020. The NFL has a way of retiring players before they're ready to walk away. Witten hopes he's not the latest case.