Unlike other sports, many NFL players careers end a lot earlier than expected. With other sports, there may be more opportunities, as well as less wear and tear on your body. With the NFL, there’s always a younger, and possibly a more talented body right behind you. Many players’ careers end due to the inability to stay healthy, the lack of production, or many other things that may not make it worth it to continue playing football, or that may not make it worth it for teams to employ them. We have seen players such as Calvin Johnson and Barry Sanders end their careers way too early with a shock. Many reporters claimed that they both retired due to the inability of the Lions to succeed.
The NFL is not an easy job, and nothing is guaranteed, regardless how good you are. Some of the best players in college football weren’t able to last long in the NFL. Other players have suffered some of the most bizarre injuries, which lead to the end of their career. Many of these players have to find other ways to make a living because it’s not always guaranteed that football will be forever. And some of them need to find a job after that they can physically be able to do, after suffering hits to the body throughout their career. While many of our favorite players will play a career in the NFL, others that we love will not be able to survive as long as we expect.
15 Doug Martin
At one point, Doug Martin looked like one of the best running backs in the league. Other times, no one even realized that he’s still playing in the league. Within five years, Martin has missed 23 games due to injuries. To start the 2017 season, Martin sat on the suspension list, which lead him to miss four games. Martin has his moments, but his injuries and off the field trouble will end his career soon. The Buccaneers have a lot of young talent, and could be Super Bowl competitors in the future.
A consistent running back would help take a lot of pressure off of Jameis Winston, and help take this team to the next level. Martin is unreliable, and soon the Bucs will realize that they need to move on to another back.
14 Ryan Tannehill
We are just starting to see the decline of Ryan Tannehill. Knee injuries have led Tannehill to miss a good chunk of the 2016 season, and the entire 2017 season. There’s only so many times you can go down until a team gives up, and that day may come sooner rather than later. Things were looking good heading towards the end of 2016 with Tannehill, until he went down. But there is a stacked draft class coming up in 2018, and the Dolphins look like they will be drafting fairly early the way this season has started off.
Will the Dolphins want to pass up on a better option than Tannehill? Of course not. And once Tannehill is done in Miami, he may play as a backup elsewhere until he’s not needed anymore. Many Miami fans may have thought Tannehill was their franchise quarterback, but eventually they will have to find a new leader if Tannehill isn't the same when he comes back.
13 Rob Gronkowski
Physically, Rob Gronkowski may be the best tight end the NFL has ever seen. He has all the features to being one of the most dominant threats on the New England Patriots, but the tight end has dealt with many injuries throughout his career. It seems that each season, Gronk is missing more games and spending time away. During the magical Super Bowl run in 2017, Gronkowski sat and watched from the sidelines. Week in and week out, we see Gronkowski on the injury list. With a position that has so much contact with having to block as well as being hit by defenders, Gronk is always seeing himself with recurring injuries.
With all the money Gronkowski makes from endorsements, he’s not going to need to continue playing football. Gronk seems like he loves the game, but he also seems like he will be realistic when it’s time to end his career. Don’t be surprised if Gronk decides to step away in the next few years.
12 Andrew Luck
Another big-name player who has spent a career filled with injuries, has been the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, Andrew Luck. The Colts' time with Peyton Manning concluded when he missed a season due to neck surgery, but now they seem to have issues with their current franchise QB, who was Manning's replacement. Luck’s talent is like no other. When he’s healthy, he may be a top five quarterback in the NFL. But we constantly see Luck on the sidelines, as opposed to the field. The past two years for Luck have been very unlucky, as he began the 2017 season on the sidelines due to a shoulder injury. If his injuries cannot be resolved and it becomes a pattern, Luck’s career won’t last long, and we may never see him hold up the Lombardi Trophy.
11 Ezekiel Elliott
Ezekiel Elliott has so much talent, and maybe even the talent to be the best running back in the NFL. But he is still very immature, and even his parents are a bit concerned. Although Elliott was not convicted of anything, the NFL is attempting to suspend him for six games due to domestic violence allegations and other issues that have involved Elliott and outside sources within the past year. Elliott has not gotten in trouble with the law within that time, but fans can tell he is no angel.
Elliott has been seen pulling up a women’s shirt in public, exposing her breasts. Elliott was known at Ohio State for being big into partying. And on the field, Elliott has been seen with a lack of effort at times. The Cowboys won’t go down with a fight, but if these actions continue, Elliott will have just been a waste of talent.
10 Paxton Lynch
Broncos Nation thought they caught the new leader of their franchise when they used their first round draft pick on Paxton Lynch during the 2016 NFL Draft. Throughout his college days, Lynch threw for 8,863 yards and 59 touchdowns. Those numbers don’t seem like they will be repeating themselves in the NFL, as Lynch struggles to see the field. Not only has Lynch struggled to show the production to be a starter on the Broncos, but he also has had issues staying healthy.
With Trevor Siemian playing a lot better, and the Broncos now signing Brock Osweiler, it doesn’t look like we’ll ever see Lynch on the field for the Broncos again. Since we haven’t seen much from Lynch, who knows if we will see him play again. If Colin Kaepernick isn’t good enough to be signed, why would Lynch be? It seems that Lynch eventually will be forgotten about and become a lost cause in the NFL.
9 Kelvin Benjamin
Injuries, injuries, injuries. In order to play as a wide receiver for a long period of time, you need to play, and be playing at a high level. Unfortunately, Benjamin hasn’t played much within the past four years due to injuries. He’s had two good seasons, but injuries continue to make his career stay in limbo. Benjamin has had a torn ACL, and a knee injury. The way it seems, is that these injuries that Benjamin has been facing won’t be going away. This Panthers team is filled with competitors, and there are plenty of wide receivers to go around. Eventually, Benjamin may be sidelined for a prolonged period again, which will lead to the decline of his career. Don’t get too excited for Benjamin’s production, as his career may not be as long as you would expect.
8 Brock Osweiler
Think about the worst quarterback in the NFL right now, who would it be? For most of you that read this, it was probably Brock Osweiler. Osweiler was brought back into the Broncos fold after two disastrous stints in Houston and Cleveland.
There is no chance that Osweiler gets another chance in the NFL after his time in Denver is done. He proved he cannot start in the NFL when he played an awful season in Houston. He was bad enough that the Browns decided to cut him despite being on the hook for his contract another year. And it seems the only reason that he’s in Denver was for the knowledge of the playbook, and to be a reliable backup due to Lynch’s injuries. Eventually, the Broncos are going to find a veteran backup with some more talent and more experienced to help back up Siemian. Osweiler’s talent is not enough to allow him to have a full career in the NFL.
7 Teddy Bridgewater
Two years ago, the Minnesota Vikings finally believed that they had the new leader of their organization. Unfortunately for those fans, they have had to deal with continuous injuries ever since.
Bridgewater has yet to play a game since the 2015 season. He had a serious knee injury, which some doctors felt may end his career.
He’s going to try, and maybe he will for some time. The torn ACL and dislocated knee that he suffered in practice before the 2016 season, may have been the turning point of his career. No one knows when Bridgewater will return, and Sam Bradford has taken over the starting position. Other teams will be interested, but his injury will hold him back, and he will eventually be forced to retire.
6 Randy Gregory
There’s a new Johnny Football in town, and his name is Randy Gregory. Johnny Manziel was known for his party habits and being unable to keep his focus on football. It seems that the Dallas Cowboys have a very similar situation with defensive end Randy Gregory, who is currently suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Friends of Gregory have told reporters that apparently Gregory’s mind has been away from football. His suspension may eventually end, but by that time, no team may want to sign him.
Gregory would have been a first round draft pick, but due to his troubles, he wasn’t selected until the second round. Gregory hasn’t played a snap since Week 17 of the 2016 season. Gregory also hasn’t put together a whole ton of production while being active, so don't be surprised if Gregory is never on an NFL football field again.
5 Joe Mixon
Joe Mixon is lucky enough that his career in the NFL is even a thing. Mixon was caught punching a girl in the face at a bar in college, which dramatically affected his draft stock. Some reporters claim that Mixon may have been the second best running back in the 2017 NFL Draft. Due to his poor actions, Mixon was drafted 48th overall by the Bengals, who decided to take a risk by grabbing the troubled running back. Many fans hated the pick, and criticized the Bengals heavily for choosing a player who was caught on video doing such a terrible action.
Now, if Mixon is a great player, and I mean constantly putting up staggering numbers year after year, his career will last. To start off the 2017 season, Mixon hasn’t been all that great. If he continues to play poorly, the Bengals are eventually going to move on. After that video, and no real production, it will be hard to see another team eventually sign him in the future.
4 Ereck Flowers
The fact that Ereck Flowers' career is still on is beyond mind boggling. The New York Giants' offensive line has struggled a lot, and a huge part of that goes back to the poor play of Flowers. Flowers goes down as the worst offensive tackle in all of football. Flowers was selected 9th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, and he's been one of the most disappointing picks of the last few years.
The Giants currently have one of the most talented teams (on paper) they have had in years, yet they have started off the 2017 season playing awful. It’s only a matter of time until Flowers is done with the Giants. There’s only so much until the Giants finally give up, and get rid of Flowers. With his poor production, he will not find another team after his time in the Big Apple is done.
3 Colin Kaepernick
The fact that Colin Kaepernick is on this list is pitiful, but it’s the straight truth. No teams want to sign Kaepernick due to his protests, and the teams that wouldn't mind his protests, don’t need him. Just think; the Dolphins, Raiders and Titans have had their starting quarterback go down, Kaepernick was never called. There are quite a few teams that have lesser talented starting quarterbacks than Kaepernick like the Jets, Bears, and 49ers. For some reason, these teams would rather lose, rather than take a chance in signing Kaepernick.
It’s understanding that these teams don’t want to alienate some fans or sponsors due to the kneeling protest that was started by him, but he has also done so many good things around different communities. And at this point, half the NFL has taken a knee during the National Anthem. But there are no signs of Kaepernick being signed, which means no sign of a future NFL career awaiting him.
2 Blake Bortles
Blake Bortles may be the most inconsistent quarterback in the NFL currently. One week, they blow a team out and Bortles is pitch perfect, the next he has a couple interceptions and a bunch of miscues. There’s only so much this Jaguars organization can take before they finally decide to throw in the towel on Bortles. With so much talent out there, Bortles can easily be unemployed. There’s a chance he may have another shot at a backup role after, but will he really last long?
He hasn’t seemed to be much of a leader for the Jaguars. He is the turnover king, which you don't want from your franchise QB, especially when your defense and running game is enough to win you games. Eventually Bortles’ time in the NFL will be long gone, and then Jaguars fans can throw a party that the his days are finally over.
1 Ben Roethlisberger
SHOCKER! Not. Ben Roethlisberger has been very open about the idea of retiring soon. Big Ben is currently 35, which is definitely up there in age for NFL players. But with Drew Brees, Carson Palmer and Tom Brady in the league, most Steelers fans should expect Roethlisberger to be hanging in the league for a little bit longer. But Ben's mind already seems to be out of the game.
After a recent five INT performance in a loss to Jacksonville, Ben admitted: "Maybe I don't have it anymore." For a guy that's already openly talked about retirement, this really sounds like he's ready to walk away.
Unfortunately for Roethlisberger and Steelers fans, it doesn’t look like the Steelers are really that close to another Super Bowl, so Ben's not going to have much incentive to stick around after this season.