The 2018 offseason was the offseason filled with retired Pro Bowlers. If you put together all of the guys that retired this offseason, you could honestly compete for a Super Bowl, with their current body shape. There’s only more to come, as we should see a lot more players retiring after this season. Between injuries and old age, a lot of players are going to be closing the chapter on their NFL career.
Some players may be expected, while others will completely shock you. Some of these players were thought to possibly retire this offseason, while other players you would never expect it to even be a possibility.
The NFL is a crazy league, with unusual things that happen. Unlike any sport, players can retire at any moment in football. It’s a game where once you hit 30, depending on your position, you could be considered “washed up” and “old.” The sport is that demanding, which makes it that much more difficult to play for a long period of time. Plus, many of these players are seeing that it’s not worth playing until an old age, because you hit a point where you’re playing at a minimum contract, where you’re only playing for the love of the game at that point.
The next era of football is about to take over, we’re just waiting on some of these oldies to make their way out of the story.
20 Christine Michael - Indianapolis Colts (RB)
A little bit unexpected, slightly irrelevant to some, but on the surprising side. Christine Michael is 27 years old, heading into his fifth season in the NFL. Michael never played a snap in 2017, but should see some action in Indianapolis, with only Marlon Mack ahead of him on the depth chart.
Since 2015, Michael has played on three different teams, and the Colts being his fourth. He’s struggled to find a permanent home, especially with the Seahawks drafting Rashaad Penny.
Michael has been a rental for most teams, and with trying to start up a family, he decides to retire and move on with his life.
19 Julius Peppers - Carolina Panthers (DE)
If Julius Peppers plays another season after 2018, they may begin to wonder what he’s drinking. Peppers is 38 years old, and signed a one-year deal with the Panthers during the offseason. Still in his late 30s, he was able to record 11 sacks, playing at a higher level than most young defensive ends. But, every career must come to an end at some point.
Most fans are expecting to hear a retirement from Peppers. Honestly, it would come as a surprise to hear him come back for another season, rather than seeing him retire. Peppers is going to want to retire on a high note, and he will continue where he left off this season.
18 Terence Newman - Minnesota Vikings (CB)
Eventually, it’s going to be time for the oldest defensive player to retire. Terence Newman is going to be 40 years old for opening day, still lining up against some of the fastest players in the NFL. It seemed like the Vikings signed him for depth, as they waited till a little bit later in the offseason to actually sign him. Before that, no one was really interested. So, that should indicate that this will be Newman’s last season playing football.
Cornerbacks usually don’t last past 30, but Newman is shockingly at 40. He will see a difference in snaps, which will make him want to leave the game behind.
17 Geno Smith - Los Angeles Chargers (QB)
Geno Smith only had one shot in the NFL as a starting quarterback, and it all vanished after an altercation with a teammate. Smith now is a backup quarterback on the Los Angeles Chargers, behind Philip Rivers. Smith may be holding on, in hopes of an opportunity to take over if Rivers gets hurt, but he won't last long.
Even when Rivers retires, there’s still better backup quarterbacks out there, and that doesn’t include anyone the Chargers could draft.
Smith clearly believes he should be a starter, and not being given the chance may drive him to leave the game for good.
16 Sam Bradford - Arizona Cardinals (QB)
There may not be a soul in the world that believes that Sam Bradford is any more than a yearlong rental for the Arizona Cardinals. Bradford is extremely talented, but lacks the ability to stay healthy. This year, his main focus is to help mentor rookie quarterback, Josh Rosen. And honestly, it may be a good thing for Bradford to do this.
Bradford will get to be the starter once again, but also take on a role of helping coach up someone. This may encourage Bradford to get into coaching after his career is over, which will come sooner rather than later. Between enjoying being Rosen's mentor and dealing with never ending injury issues, Bradford will choose to finish off his career after this season.
15 Cliff Avril - Free Agent (DE)
The 2018 offseason was not good to the Seattle Seahawks. They released defensive end, Cliff Avril, as he missed 12 games in 2017, due to a career-threatening neck injury. With his teammate Kam Chancellor retiring due to his career ending injury, Avril may have some words with Chancellor about his progress and decision.
Avril would like to get back on to the field, and he will continue to fight to get back this season, but something’s going to hit him eventually. Eventually, he’s going to realize that there’s more to life than football, and it’s not worth risking a current injury he has to continue playing.
14 Josh McCown - New York Jets (QB)
It came as a shock in 2017 when Josh McCown was actually playing at a high level for the Jets. It was arguably the best season of his career, it’s just too bad that it didn’t come until he was 39 years old.
McCown knows the clock is ticking, with Sam Darnold right behind him. McCown signed a one-year deal, and it should be his last.
McCown should be the starter Week 1, and this gives him one last shot to perform at a high level in the NFL. A player who for the most part has been a backup his whole career, can end his career on a positive note, as a starter.
13 LeGarrette Blount - Detroit Lions (RB)
The further you away you are from the success you had in your career, the less teams are interested in you. LeGarrette Blount was one of the most dominant running backs in 2016 with the Patriots, but was nowhere near as good last season with the Eagles. He signed a one-year contract with the Lions this offseason, a team who has struggled running the football for years. If Blount struggles once again, teams are not going to be interested in signing him in 2019. There’s proven running backs like Alfred Morris and Adrian Peterson who are still free agents, and actually DeMarco Murray surprisingly generated little interest in free agency, causing him to retire. The same may happen to Blount.
12 Brock Osweiler - Miami Dolphins (QB)
Brock Osweiler was once one of the highest paid players in the game, and now, makes less than $1 million. Osweiler nearly robbed the Texans when signing a four-year deal worth $72 million, as he didn’t live up to the expectations Houston set for him. And that has all led him to where he is now, in Miami.
It seems that with the uncertainty of Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins may need to throw Osweiler out there are some point. And when he’s out there, he’s going to struggle.
And when he struggles, it’s just going to make more teams uninterested in signing him next season. Osweiler will step away from football, considering the money is no longer there.
11 Eric Reid - Free Agent (S)
One of the better young talented safeties in the league is still jobless, with less than a few weeks before the season begins. Part could be because of the safety market in general, but it could also be because of Reid's protests, following in the footsteps of Colin Kaepernick.
Reid has openly stated that no matter what team he plays for, he will withdraw his protests, but there just hasn't been much of a market for him. He was recently invited for a workout with the Tennessee Titans, but as fate would have it, his flight was delayed twice, preventing him from attending his workout.
10 Rob Gronkowski - New England Patriots (TE)
A fan favorite, Rob Gronkowski, could be playing in the final season of his NFL career. At only 29 years old, he’s been debating retirement now for some time due to all the shots he takes to his body. And to be honest, after one more season of taking that kind of punishment, he may realize he wants to get out of this before he gets severely injured. With the saga of Gronk's possible retirement going on for as long as it has, it’s a matter of time before he decides that he actually doesn’t want to play football anymore.
9 Darren Sproles - Philadelphia Eagles (RB)
It’s not easy to deal with a broken arm at the age of 35, especially as a 5’6 running back in the NFL.
Darren Sproles has been a tough running back throughout his career, and doesn’t seem like he had any plans of stopping. But with Jay Ajayi likely to really take over as the starter, Sproles is going to continue to see snaps get lost.
And at some point, he’s got to realize that his time may be over. This just isn’t the same explosive Sproles that we once saw, which may make him realize that it’s time to move on.
8 Marshawn Lynch - Oakland Raiders (RB)
It’s already happened once, so it’s going to happen again. Just a few years ago, Marshawn Lynch retired from football as a Seattle Seahawk. But last offseason, he decided to make a return to play for his hometown team, the Oakland Raiders. So far it hasn’t worked out the way he would expect, and if his season is anything like last year, the Raiders won’t have any interest in re-signing him in 2019.
Lynch wanted to play for the Raiders before they made the move to Las Vegas. And he did just that, but 2019 will be the year to hang up the cleats for good.
7 Clay Matthews - Green Bay Packers (LB)
Remember when NFL fans looked at Clay Matthews as like a Khalil Mack or Von Miller type of player? At one point, he was one of the best pass rushers in the game. Now, not so much. There haven’t been many talks about it, and don’t be surprised if Matthews decides to take some time away from the game after this season. His talent keeps diminishing, and if this team can’t win, he’s playing for a contract and that’s really it. This would be one of the most surprising retirements in 2019, but one that could very well happen if the Packers don't return to contention.
6 Thomas Davis - Carolina Panthers (LB)
Even in his mid-30’s, Thomas Davis is still one of the best linebackers in the game. But, that doesn’t mean that one day he will want to move on from football.
We already saw that Julius Peppers will likely retire following this season, and Davis would likely follow.
What better way than to follow a longtime teammate out of the game you’ve loved. Plus, with the Panthers already dealing with some injuries this training camp, Davis may realize that he could be more likely to get hurt at an older age. Avoid it, and leave while you’re still healthy.
5 Frank Gore - Miami Dolphins (RB)
Frank Gore may be one of the most under appreciated players in the game, and that won’t change until he retires. He continues to climb the all-time rushing yards list, but it would take another five years or so to break Emmitt Smith’s record. Gore made it work in Indianapolis and San Francisco, but Miami will be another difficult task. It’s not necessarily the best place right now for a running back, and he’s only getting older. Gore is back home in his home city Miami, so there’s no better way than to end your football career.
4 Ryan Shazier - Pittsburgh Steelers (LB)
While Ryan Shazier has aspirations of playing football again, the real focus should be just living a healthy life. Shazier suffered a severe spinal injury, that caused him to not be able to walk for months. While he can still walk slowly with some help, he doesn’t look like he’s in any form to play football again.
The idea of coming back and living the miracle is awesome, but as he gets to spend time with his family, he’s going to realize what truly matters to him. Football is great, but playing again could be risky, something he will realize next offseason when he realizes he needs to move on.
3 Larry Fitzgerald - Arizona Cardinals (WR)
It’s pretty surprising that Larry Fitzgerald didn’t retire when his QB Carson Palmer did this offseason. Even with ongoing trade rumors, Fitzgerald stated that he will only play for the Cardinals. With Josh Rosen taking over the team sooner rather than later, it may show that there’s a shift in an era coming. We saw it with the Dallas Cowboys as they released Dez Bryant, and saw Jason Witten retire all in one season.
Well, Fitzgerald may choose not to be part of the rebuild with the rookie quarterback, and retire like he said, as a member of the Cardinals.
2 J.J. Watt - Houston Texans (DE)
J.J. Watt has achieved some pretty incredible things this past year, but they haven’t been done on the football field. Watt has suffered multiple injuries that have kept him out of extended periods of time throughout the past two seasons. And if he can’t get better, he may choose to quit football overall.
Watt may be physically overpowering, but somehow can’t stay healthy.
Watt did incredible things by helping those in Houston who suffered following Hurricane Harvey, and he may choose to do something he loves more than football; helping others who are in need.
1 Tom Brady - New England Patriots (QB)
Tom Brady says that he wants to play football for another five seasons, but we all know that may not happen. The Patriots really haven’t put together a team that could bounce back following a Super Bowl loss last season. Yes, they can still dominate the AFC, but so many NFC teams have the talent to go and defeat the Patriots. It’s as simple as this. If Gronkowski retires, Brady retires.
Right now, Brady relies on Gronkowski to be successful. Without him, they really lose that player who can take over games. The Brady era will finally come to an end.