Every offseason, players are going to retire. Players get old, beaten up, have expired contracts, or have simply seen their abilities start to fade. Fans only think about how long players have played in the NFL for, but most of these players have been playing football since they were toddlers. It’s a big commitment, that takes much longer than the span of a NFL career. Many of the hardest times come before the NFL too, because you’re preparing to take your talents to the next level. By the time they hit a certain age, they’re beaten up and want to enjoy life for what it’s for.
Everyone looks at football with so much awe, and feel playing in the NFL is the highest honor one could have, but not all NFL players feel the same way. For many, this is just a career for them. After playing the game for a while, they may lose their passion for the game but can’t leave it because it sure pays the bills. Some players love it and compete because they love the sport and that’s what they’ve worked for their whole lives. Different players play for different reasons.
Last offseason, we saw a Pro Bowl retirement team. Players who retired last offseason included Jason Witten, Carson Palmer, DeMarco Murray, Joe Thomas, and James Harrison. If you go through all of the players that retired, you will find quite the amount of Pro Bowls. This offseason, won’t be as many talented players because of how young the league is. Also, just because the players are on this list, doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to retire this offseason.
So many changes are going on this offseason with the Cardinals, while soon to be 36-year-old wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, will be a free agent. Looking at this past season, Fitzgerald really didn’t get going until about the end of October. Expectations are high for this offense with Kliff Kingsbury coming in, but there’s a long way to go until this Cardinals team is a playoff contender again. Clearly, the Cardinals are in a rebuilding stage, so he likely thinks about calling it quits and allowing this team to revamp.
Matt Schaub’s two-year contract with the Falcons is up, so what’s next? Most fans would expect kicker Matt Bryant to retire due to his age and the injury he sustained but expect him to come back for at least another year to help this team compete for a championship. With more starting quarterbacks losing their jobs this past season, those guys are going to become backups and hit the market. That means that guys like Schaub are going to be out of luck. Rather than letting free agency end his career, Schaub will go out on his own terms.
It’s really hard to pick who could retire from the Ravens, considering how young a team they are. You would think the obvious choice would be Terrell Suggs, especially because he’s a free agent this offseason. However, Suggs has already made it clear he wants to return to the Ravens, which also makes sense considering they have a playoff contending team. He's also said he'd be willing to go elsewhere if the Ravens move on from him.
Marshal Yanda is the most realistic candidate, at 34 years old playing on the offensive line.
Unlike the other names on this list where we're projecting possible retirements, Kyle Williams wasted no time in making his decision, announcing his retirement following the Bills' Week 17 win at home over Miami. Kyle Williams had a great career, but he had to see where things were going. Williams will be 36 years old at the beginning of the 2019 season, which would've given him a thin free agent market. Williams got to finish off his career at a high level with five sacks, and decided to remain a Bill for life.
Based on the decision to part ways with Thomas Davis, it looks like the Panthers want to go in a younger direction, particularly on defense. This makes sense, considering this team aged to the point where they fell apart this season. With the current trend, Peppers will likely decide to leave the game. It’s not the ending he would’ve wanted, but it was a long career scaring many quarterbacks. At 39 years old, you can say he had himself an incredible football career, and likely a Hall of Fame one, but it's clear he lost that explosive burst he once had off the line.
The end seemed clear when Bears tight end Zach Miller, went down with a serious leg injury in 2017 that was career-threatening. Miller wants to play again, but the odds are against him. Miller will be 35 years old midway through the 2019 season, after sustaining an injury that could’ve ended his career. He should make the smart decision to retire, and potentially go into coaching. He helped mentor Mitchell Trubisky through the season and could find a role on that Bears sideline. With Trey Burton turning into the featured tight end in Chicago, Miller’s role would be minimal.
Andre Smith was signed towards the end of the 2018 season by the Bengals when Jake Fisher was put on IR. Considering Smith was cut by the Cardinals in the first place, he may never get a job again. Smith is a free agent this offseason who will turn 32 years old before the beginning of the 2019 season. It’s unrealistic to think he will find a team, especially since his job was to replace a player who was put on IR.
The fact that Drew Stanton’s career has lasted as long as it has is a miracle. From 2011-2013, he didn’t throw a single pass in a regular season game. There might not be a point in coming back to the Browns, considering he has no shot of playing in a game. Stanton’s up there in age, and you have to think he won’t want to go through another full offseason for no purpose. The backup position may be open if the Browns decide to part ways with Tyrod Taylor, but odds are, they'll be looking for a more viable option at backup.
It’s already been reported that Sean Lee will consider retirement this offseason, which might be the best thing for him. The Cowboys have their young linebacking corps with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, which would likely lead them to cut Lee this offseason. At his age, with his injury history, he’s going to be a risk and potentially hurt them on their salary cap. At this point, he’s probably realized his body simply can't hold up for a full season.
Domata Peko’s contract with the Broncos has expired, so what’s next? He's 34 years old playing defensive tackle, with a future in limbo. You would think the Broncos want to stay young considering the core of that team is fairly young, with the exception of the quarterback. Re-signing a veteran defensive tackle is going to be more expensive than it’s worth. Peko had a good run, but it's hard to think another team is really going to be interested considering the type of talent on defense that will be available throughout free agency, and the draft.
Matt Cassel has been on seven teams, and it would be eight if he signed elsewhere this offseason. Cassel had his chance to be a starting quarterback, and it lasted a few seasons. For a few years now, he’s been the backup. Reports have come out of Detroit that the Lions are wondering how much longer they want to go with Matt Stafford. The Lions will likely look to draft a QB who could be a legitimate challenger to Stafford's job in the future, meaning a journeyman like Cassel may be deemed expendable.
After Marcedes Lewis played his best football since 2013 last season, you would’ve expected a team to really try and utilize him. The Green Bay Packers signed him but didn’t really include him in the offense. He caught three passes for 39 yards on the season. No way would a player want to continue his career if that’s the type of production he’s going to bring. At that point, he’s better off retiring and not having to worry about practicing and working out with the team.
A lot of fans are going to be happy when Brandon Weeden retires because they won’t have to worry about their team signing him. Weeden started off his professional sports career as a baseball player and then decided to come back and enter the NFL Draft at a late age. Weeden was only drafted seven years ago and is 35 years old. He never lived up to his first round potential, and nobody really wants to have to rely on him in case their starting quarterback gets hurt.
Originally, Adam Vinatieri held this spot on the list. Of course, Vinatieri then came out and said he has no intentions of retiring this offseason. Maybe that makes sense, as he can come back for another season where the Colts can stack up their roster with a lot of money to spend, and make a run at a Super Bowl. Now, Matt Slauson, the Colts’ injured guard, has the highest likelihood of retiring, due to age, an injury, and being a free agent.
Some teams are really hard to find a potential retiree, because of how young they are. The Jaguars have that issue, which is good. Calais Campbell definitely isn’t retiring, so Jaguars fans don’t have to worry about that. Perhaps there's a good chance they see long snapper, Matt Overton retire. Overton sustained a shoulder injury and is in his mid-30s. It will depend on where his mind is at, but they have the best chance of losing him considering the injury. Besides that, the Jaguars are in good shape.
The Kansas City Chiefs are another very young team. In the past, there have been reports about cutting their punter, Dustin Colquitt. This offseason, it could become a reality. Before the 2019 season begins, he’s going to be 37 years old. His contract is due for a raise in the 2019 season and with the way the Chiefs move the ball on offense, they may feel they don't need to be paying a punter all that much. If the Chiefs really want to save money in order to develop their defense, they’re going to have to make some of these easy cuts, including their punter.
Watching the broadcast of the Chargers vs. Patriots playoff game, it seemed like it would be Antonio Gates's final game. Gates was a free agent for most of the offseason but was re-signed when two Chargers tight ends went down, including Hunter Henry. It allowed Gates to play one final season, one in which the Chargers had the second-best record in the AFC and made the playoffs. Gates ended on a high note, and that’s the perfect way for him to wrap up his career.
Sam Shields got to play football again really for the first time since 2015. Not only did he get to play football, but he did so for a team who had a lot of success in the Los Angeles Rams. Many will remember Shields as the cornerback for the Packers, but he signed on a cheap deal with the Rams last offseason. He got his second chance, and he made the best of it. He’s past his prime, and won’t get the type of playing time he got this season when Aqib Talib was out.
Will a team be interested in Cameron Wake during free agency? Of course. That team might not be the Dolphins though, as they look to re-build and find their identity. The Dolphins know they aren’t winning a Super Bowl next season, which is why they’re going to look for their new quarterback and move on from aging veterans. Re-signing Wake at this point likely isn't in the best interest of either party. Wake is 37 years old, and will either want to join a Super Bowl contender, or simply retire.
A surprising name who had a good season with the Vikings is defensive tackle, Tom Johnson. Johnson finished this season off with 4.5 sacks, 24 total tackles, seven tackles for a loss and seven QB hits. Those are good numbers for a 34-year-old defensive tackle, and also good numbers for him to end of his career. The Vikings are going to look to get younger through the draft, specifically on the defensive line. Does Johnson really want to play out free agency with these other defensive tackles?
It's hard to think there’s a good chance Rob Gronkowski returns next season. Gronkowski continues to deal with injuries and saw a drop in production this season. Last year, the Patriots nearly made a deal to trade Gronkowski to the Lions, but he said he would retire if it went through. This is likely the last run for the massive tight end, as the more injuries he sustains, the more he's going to hurt himself following the end of his NFL career.
Drew Brees is 40 years old now, and saw his numbers decline as the 2018 season went on, but given how this Saints team was robbed of a Super Bowl berth, Brees feels he can give it one more run in New Orleans. That leaves tight end Benjamin Watson as the team's most likely retiree, as he already revealed he planned on retiring. Watson's tune may have changed, given how he was inactive for the NFC Championship game, as that's no way a player wants to end their career. However, the Saints likely feel they need to add a more explosive tight end to give Brees another option in the passing game. It's probably for the best that Watson retires.
The questions continue to raise as fans wonder whether Eli Manning played his last game in a Giants uniform, or on a football field in general. There were a lot of thoughts of Manning playing elsewhere like Jacksonville, but other teams aren’t going to want to take a depleted Eli Manning. The Giants are likely going to be drafting a quarterback and the pressure will heap on the team to play that QB right away, and that means moving on from Eli. The Giants front office will give him an option, but we're guessing he chooses to retire as a starter.
Josh McCown was finally appreciated, and it came in what should be the second-to-last season of his career. Last season, the Jets were expected to go 1-15, but instead, McCown was a solid quarterback who won some games for them and kept them in tight contests. The Jets have their future quarterback in Sam Darnold, and McCown will be 40 years old in July. It was a rocky rollercoaster, and McCown certainly had fun all the way till the end, but 2018 is pretty much it for the veteran.
When Marshawn Lynch decided he wanted to come out of retirement, he wanted to end his career in his hometown of Oakland, playing there before the Raiders left for Las Vegas. With the current drama between the city and organization, it’s looking more and more like the Raiders have played their final game in the Oakland Coliseum. With the money the Raiders have to spend, it seems likely they will be active in finding a running back. Lynch's contract is up as well, so it's very likely Beast Mode will shut down permanently.
Mike Wallace didn’t do a thing for the Eagles in 2018, before he got hurt and missed the remainder of the season. Wallace is set to hit free agency this offseason, and won’t see any interest from the Eagles. It’s very likely he won’t see any interest from any teams; just look at Jeremy Maclin last offseason. Wallace is going to be 33 years old before the 2019 season begins. Wallace may want to go out on his own terms, rather than finding a market with no interest in him.
Yes, we're just as surprised as everyone reading this that Darrius Heyward-Bey, mostly known for being a Raiders draft bust, is still playing football. It's even more surprising that he found a job at receiver on a successful organization like the Steelers. However, his contract is up this offseason and the Steelers will likely begin shifting their attention to improving their secondary. Heyward-Bey barely sees any action (he was targeted on just two passes this season), so it's unlikely anybody will sign him.
It was surprising that Alfred Morris didn’t have as much interest coming from teams last offseason, considering he was averaging 4.8 yards per carry in Dallas. Once Jerick McKinnon went down, Morris found himself a job in San Francisco. Morris definitely got touches, but you could consider him the weak part of the running back committee finishing with 3.9 yards per carry. With so many talented running backs as free agents this offseason, Morris doesn’t stand a chance signing with a team.
Sebastian Janikowski was solid this season as always, but sustained an injury in the Wild Card round against the Cowboys that held him out for the remainder of the game. He had also gotten hurt in the team's Week 16 tilt with Kansas City. Let's not forget he also missed the entire 2017 season with an injury. When older guys that play non-contact positions like kicker get hurt, it really deters them from wanting to play. Janikowski is going to be 41 years old having to overcome an injury; that’s if the Seahawks really want to keep him. Odds are, Sea Bass may simply walk away.
This season, Ryan Fitzpatrick probably got the most love he’s ever received playing in the NFL. Fitzmagic came to life, as Fitzpatrick led this Buccaneers teams to some incredible wins to start the season, including one over the Saints. It was magical, and it should be over. Fitzpatrick could definitely find himself another backup job, but sometimes going out on a positive note is good. Although the Buccaneers missed the playoffs and Fitzpatrick was benched, 2018 quite possibly marked the end of Fitzmagic as we know it.
Delanie Walker’s 2018 season ended early, as he sustained a season-ending injury in Week 1. He has talked about fighting to come back for 2019, but you truly don’t know what you want to do until you go through the whole process.
Brian Orakpo already announced his retirement, so it makes a lot of sense that Walker could be next. Walker was felled by a serious injury, and it wouldn’t be ideal to go down with another injury like that at his age.
Speaking of injuries, Alex Smith went down with the worst of them all. Smith went through a Joe Theismann type of injury, on the same date that Theismann played his last NFL snap. Many doctors said that Smith nearly lost his leg, as there were multiple surgeries that had to take place to fight off infections. Smith turned out to be in the hospital for much longer than expected. The Redskins already seem to be planning to look for a new quarterback this offseason, which makes it all the more likely that Smith will have to retire.