A stalwart of CBSNCIS franchise is hanging up his badge. Fan favorite Michael Weatherly, who has played Special Agent Tony DiNozzo since the mothership series launched in 2003, confirmed via Twitter today that he is leaving the show at season’s end:

The character is one only four to appear in all of the show’s nearly 300 episodes, along with Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark NCIS_logoHarmon), Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette) and Dr. Donald Mallard (David McCallum), leaving Harmon, Perrette and McCallum as the only remaining original cast members of the long-running crime procedural. The news comes hours before the midseason premiere of NCIS, a crossover episode with NCIS: New Orleans.

6 months
Enjoy the show very much and the excellent cast work so well togethey, but the show will...
Dave
6 months
I bet the terrorist nemisis that kills anyone close to Gibbs gets Tony...who can Gibbs head slap...
Margo Nakagawa
6 months
I,m already depressed. ..and he isn't even gone. I guess you can't hide 13 years but it...

Perrette, McCallum, Sean Murray and Rocky Carroll all have their contracts up at the end of this season, facing another round of renegotiations. McCallum, who let the news of Weatherly’s exit slip in an interview with Vulture Hound several days ago, triggering a wave of online speculation, indicated in the same interview that he is willing to return for another season.

During the last round of deal-making two years ago, Weatherly landed an overall producing deal with NCIS studio CBS TV Studios in conjunction with re-upping his acting contract. He has been active on the producing side, with his sales including a Little Women drama at the CW this season. I hear this was Weatherly’s decision to depart NCIS at the end of his contract. In 2013, NCIS lost another fan fave, Cote de Pablo, who also opted not to sign a new contract. She played DiNozzo’s love interest Ziva.

CBS said in a statement: “After 13 years on NCIS, Michael Weatherly is leaving the show at the end of this season. He is a valued part of the CBS family, and the immense charm and talent he brings to the screen as “Very” Special Agent Tony DiNozzo has helped make NCIS what it is today – the #1 drama in the world. We thank Michael for all of his contributions to this successful franchise and look forward to continuing to develop projects with him as part of our ongoing development deal.”

Erik Pedersen contributed to this report.