Can Witten Catch Up To Tony Gonzalez?

It's not the first time Tony Gonzalez has given himself one more year to play football, but it sounds the most sincere thus far. In January, Gonzalez signed a contract extension with the Falcons for only one season, 2012.

The former Kansas City tight end explained his intentions during an online chat on Thursday, according to the *Atlanta Journal-Constitution *(via PFT).

The NFL's all-time leader in every meaningful tight end statistic, Gonzalez will have 16 seasons under his belt at the conclusion of 2012. Assuming production consistent with his career averages - consistency being his thing - he'll finish with something like 1,226 catches, 14,227 receiving yards and 101 touchdowns.

Could the Cowboys' own Jason Witten, an incredibly consistent tight end in his own right, have a chance to challenge Gonzalez' marks one day?

Witten already ranks second among tight ends in all-time receptions, with 696 through nine seasons, an average of 77.3 catches per year. Assuming his production was stable, Witten would need another seven seasons, giving him 16 total, the same as Gonzalez, to pass the Falcons star.

Turning 30 years old in May, Witten would have to play until he's 36 to pass Gonzalez' receptions record. He'll shatter Michael Irvin's Cowboys-record 750 catches long before that, on pace to do so at some point in the middle of next season.

If he played through 16 seasons at his current rate of 879 yards per year, Witten would fall less than 200 yards short of Gonzalez' mark through 16 years of his own.

So far, so good, but Witten is unlikely to challenge Gonzalez' touchdown mark, as he has only 41 scores under his belt already.

At his current rate, Witten appears bound to finish his career as no worse than second among tight ends, statistically. But will he want to play until he's 36 or 37?

The five-year contract extension he signed last summer runs through 2017. To catch Gonzalez, he would probably need one last season after that, just like the Falcons tight end is taking, a victory tour of his own.

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