Time flies when you’re having fun.
Or, apparently, when you are a professional athlete playing in the NFL.
The shelf life for players in the National Football League is perhaps the shortest in all of professional sports, with the average amount of years played currently hovering around 3.3. With a big influx of professional football players voluntarily stepping away from the game to avoid severe injuries, it’s not hard to see why the average span of these athletes’ careers continue to dwindle each year.
Football is by far the most dangerous of all of the major American sports, so naturally turnover is a normal and accepted thing. While there are always freak athletes like Tom Brady who continue to dominate into their early forties, there are also plenty of players that fizzle out of the league at a much quicker rate. Although sometimes it can be tough to speculate which players are on their way out, oftentimes the writing is just on the wall. We decided here at The Sportster to rank the top 15 players who are most likely on their way out of the NFL by the time the 2018 season wraps around.
Obviously this isn’t a list of random undrafted journeyman and struggling rookies, but rather, big ticket players who have had successful careers in the NFL up to this point. While it’s impossible to get such a list 100% correct, we think we managed to put a solid list of notable names together. Let us know what you think!
15 Jay Cutler
Jay Cutler has always been somewhat of an overrated player, and his poor play over the past few seasons looks to finally be catching up to him. The Chicago Bears have finally parted ways with the living breathing turnover machine, and signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon to take over the reigns at QB in Windy City.
There has been limited interest in Cutler since his release, with the New York Jets being the only team rumored to be interested in his services. Coming off an injury plagued season in which he only played in five games, teams have been cautious of his recent injury history and poor play.
While Cutler may end up catching on to a quarterback needy squad before the 2017 season starts, if he manages to flame out at his next stop, he's not likely to be on an NFL roster by 2018.
14 DeAngelo Williams
Make no mistake-- DeAngelo Williams is still a productive NFL player when healthy. The problem is, he's often not. He only managed to play in eight games last season, and although he was able to return to the AFC championship after knee surgery, it's unclear whether or not his aging body can withstand the punishment of a 16 game NFL season.
Most running backs begin to show decline at 30 years of age, but at 33 Williams has still demonstrated that he can still be explosive at times. However, it's unlikely he can manage to maintain his dominate speed as he enters his mid 30's. Williams hasn't committed to even playing in 2017, so it's should basically be a guarantee that Williams will be happily retired by 2018 .
13 Johnny Manziel
Despite just being 24 years of age, it's essentially a lock that the former first round pick and Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel will be out of the league within the next two seasons. Technically speaking, he's out of the league already after getting cut by the Cleveland Browns following a laundry list of off-field issues last season.
However, it's not crazy to think somebody could take a flier on the embattled QB down the road. But Manziel has also not shown much consistency on the field either, and with just seven career touchdowns under his belt, it’s hard for a team to justify signing the controversial QB.
Manuel has done nothing to prove to his critics that he's mature enough to handle being a franchise quarterback, so unless Jerry Jones and Cowboys come calling, it appears more and more likely Johnny Manziel's NFL career is already over.
12 Colin Kaepernick
Although he's just 29 years old, Colin Kaepernick’s days as an NFL quarterback appear to be dwindling. While he actually played pretty well at the end of last year, the various controversies surrounding the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback could cost him another NFL job. Kaepernick’s National Anthem protests during the 2016 season were subject to much scrutiny, and it appears teams are lukewarm on the idea of bringing those kind of distractions onto their team.
Kaepernick has also been plagued with injuries over the past few years, and hasn’t managed to put together a full season since 2014. With additional reports about teams being concerned about Colin’s vegan diet as well as questions about his love for the game, it should come as a surprise to no one if Kaepernick is forced out of the league by 2018.
11 Robert Griffin III
Despite getting off to a hot start as a rookie, Robert Griffin III has regressed arguably more than any player in the league. After losing his starting job to Kirk Cousins during the 2015 season, RGIII was released by the Washington Redskins and was then signed by the franchise where quarterback careers go to die-- the Cleveland Browns. Griffin continued to show how fragile of a player he is in Cleveland, playing just five games with the Browns because of a shoulder injury.
However, even when Griffin played he was pretty freaking bad. He passed for just 886 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in those five games, and didn't do much to help his stock as a starting signal caller in the league. Griffin was released by the Browns this past offseason, which is essentially rock bottom for an NFL quarterback. With his extensive injury history and continued poor play, it's tough to see Robert Griffin III in the league in 2018.
10 Darrelle Revis
Darrelle Revis is unquestionably a Hall of Famer, but there's also no doubt he's no longer the same player that coined the phrase 'Revis Island'. Father time has not been kind to Revis, as he struggled mightily in man coverage all throughout the 2017 season. This led to his second Jets' release and there hasn't been much interest in Revis since he became an unrestricted free agent.
While he's been linked to the Patriots by some executives throughout the NFL, it's not clear whether or not the Pats will take a flyer on the regressing Revis. Many around the league also don't see Revis making a successful transition to safety in his twilight years, so unless he somehow finds the fountain of youth, he may no longer be in the league by 2018. I think it's safe to say he's made enough money over the years to retire comfortably, regardless.
9 Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson had a disappointing 2016 season after tearing his right meniscus, as the future Hall of Famer only managed to play in three contests. For the limited amount of time Peterson was on the field, he looked like a shell of his former self, rushing for just 72 yards on 37 carries without reaching the end zone once.
Although he's proved doubters wrong before after tearing his ACL, Peterson is now 32 years old and it may be hard for him to bounce back at his advanced age. The Vikings thought it was best to part ways with Peterson this offseason, and he's only gotten a moderate amount of interest in free agency thus far, visiting with just the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. Peterson will probably catch on with a team this season, but it's far from a guarantee that he will return in 2018.
8 Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald has proven time and again that he is the consummate professional, but unfortunately, he's not getting any younger. While Fitzgerald is still amongst the best receivers in the game today, he's now 33 years old and clearly not getting any younger. He reportedly mulled retirement after the 2016 season, but decided against it and will now suit up for the 2017 NFL season.
However, it's more likely than not that Fitzgerald will hang up his cleats after his fourteenth season in the league. He's third all time in receptions, ninth in receiving yards, and eight in touchdowns, so there's not much Fitzgerald needs to prove to the league. While he's yet to win an elusive Lombardi trophy, he'll still go down as one of the best receivers to ever play the game when he does decide to call it quits after next season.
7 Ryan Fitzpatrick
Ryan Fitzpatrick had a career year in 2015, but the same can certainly not be said for his dreadful 2016 campaign. After a lengthy offseason holdout, Fitzpatrick appeared to regress significantly from the player who set a Jets franchise record with 31 touchdown passes just two seasons ago.
The 34 year old Fitzpatrick struggled in Chan Gailey's offense in 2016 and threw just 12 touchdowns to 17 interceptions, and was benched on multiple occasions throughout the season. With the Jets choosing to go their separate ways with the former Harvard alum, it's unlikely another team will take a flier on the journeyman quarterback. It’s only a matter of time before Fitzpatrick is filing retirement papers, and he most certainly won’t be in the league by 2018.
6 Terence Newman
Terrance Newman has appeared to find the fountain of youth, and has carved out a solid second half of a career since getting released by the Dallas Cowboys back in 2011. At 38 years old, Newman still remains one of the fastest players on the Vikings, and an above average member of Minnesota's secondary. He was re-signed by the Vikes in the offseason, but it remains to be seen whether or not he can still be an effective player going into his 16th NFL season.
Although he’s a great locker room guy and very familiar with head coach Mike Zimmer’s defensive schemes, it’s fair to wonder whether or not the Vikings will choose to move on from the veteran cornerback after the 2017 campaign. It doesn’t look like he’s planning on making the move to free safety any time soon, so consider it more likely than not that Newman retires before the 2018 season.
5 Eddie Lacy
Despite working out with P90X guru Tony Horton last offseason, it appears former Alabama running back Eddie Lacy is in full cheeseburger mode once again. Lacy’s NFL career got off to a fast start with the Green Bay Packers, rushing for 1,000 yards in his first two seasons in the league. He has since struggled with injuries and conditioning, and his play has suffered as a result.
It’s getting increasingly more difficult to see Lacy as a featured back in this league once again, with his weight problems at the forefront of his steep decline. Although he was signed by the Seattle Seahawks to an incentive based contract in the offseason, it's not clear whether or not Lacy can re-capture his early career success in Green Bay. If Lacy continues to struggle with his weight in 2017, it's pretty unlikely we'll see him on a roster for during the 2018 NFL campaign.
4 Josh Gordon
When Josh Gordon is actually on the field, he's one of the most explosive receivers in all of the NFL. This was evident in the 2013 season, where Gordon played 14 games and led the league in receiving with 1,646 yards to go alone with nine touchdowns. Despite his raw talent and blazing fast speed, Gordon has not managed to play in an NFL contest since the 2014 season because of suspensions.
If he does manage get reinstated this year, it's interesting to see whether or not he can manage to stay drug- free for the entire 2017 season. While there are rumors the Browns have not given up on the talented receiver just yet, it's hard to imagine Gordon making an NFL comeback after countless violations of the league's substance abuse policy. I think it’s more likely than not that Josh Gordon’s time in the NFL will be coming to an official end sooner, rather than later.
3 Brock Osweiler
It was pretty obvious from the start that the $72 million contract the Texans shelled out for Brock Osweiler was a big mistake. The Texans were so desperate to shed Osweiler’s disastrous contract that they were willing to part with a second round pick just to get his numbers off their books. Osweiler is now a member of the Cleveland Browns, but some around the league think even they will outright release Osweiler rather than have him as their starting quarterback.
Usually if even the Cleveland Browns don’t want you on their roster, it means you’re pretty freaking bad. Despite possessing a cannon for an arm and above-average athleticism, Brock Osweiler struggles with decision making and accuracy. Although Osweiler should get an opportunity to prove himself in 2017, the same can’t be said for beyond. If he continues to struggle like he did last season with the Texans, there’s a solid chance he won’t be on an NFL roster come 2018.
2 Brandon Marshall
Despite recently inking a two-year deal with the New York Giants, it's unclear how much time Brandon Marshall has left in the league. Marshall recently had his worst season since his rookie year with just 733 receiving yards and three touchdowns, but the unusually low production could also be attributed to the New York Jet's abysmal quarterback situation. While his age (33) doesn't appear to be slowing him down too much, there have been rumblings that Marshall could retire early to pursue broadcasting.
He's already proven to be a great NFL analyst, and with a second career already lined up, he could just opt to retire if things don't go well for him with the New York Giants. He’s just two seasons removed from a 14 receiving touchdown campaign with the Jets, so he still has time left in the league, but it appears more likely than not Marshall will be out of the league by 2018.
1 Tony Romo
While the Dallas Cowboys continue to keep Tony Romo hostage, it’s fair to wonder whether or not the former Pro Bowler will ever suit up for an NFL contest again. Although Romo has been linked to both the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos, neither team has appeared to be overenthusiastic about adding the veteran quarterback.
Having only played in parts of five games over the past two seasons, it’s pretty easy to understand why teams would have reservations about trading for a soon to be 37 year old quarterback with an extensive injury history. With offers from both FOX and CBS to be an NFL analyst, it wouldn’t come as a shock if Romo decides to retire and pursue a career in broadcasting. But with Jerry Jones recently giving NFL teams permission to talk to Romo, it appears he will most likely get another chance to prove himself in 2017. Anything beyond that, is anyone’s guess. My guess is he’s a goner.
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