It won't be long before the NFL offseason finally hits, and all of the rumors, transactions, and general pandemonium associated with that time of the year, hits in full force. It won't be a time of the year that lacks excitement, that much is guaranteed. Of course, with all of the players that will be changing teams for the 2018 season, there are current players who won't be participating at all. Retirement announcements are just as prevalent in the offseason, and there a ton of veteran players who may be hanging up the cleats.
Of course, the decision to retire is a personal one through and through, and there's legitimate reason why many of these players would elect to stay on for another year as well. You really can never tell what is going through a player's mind, but for the subjects of this article, you have to believe they are at least considering walking away. Let's take a look at some of the prime candidates for retirement from the NFL, and why they would be hanging it up.
Ranked below are 5 quarterbacks, 5 wide receivers and 5 running backs who NEED to retire from the NFL.
15 Eli Manning (QB)
You know that Manning has to be thinking about it, even though he was reinstated as the Giants' starter when head coach Ben McAdoo was fired late in the season. There's been a clear regression with Manning's play, and he isn't the same quarterback he was even two or three years ago. The Giants need a long-term answer, and there is no guarantee that Manning would want to play elsewhere.
Sitting at 37-years-old, it's really going to be a tough decision. In reality, Manning probably should just hang it up, but you can't overlook the fact that many quarterbacks are going to start trying to play until the age of 40, now that Brady (and Favre) have set the precedent for that. While his best years are behind him, Manning will likely try to make a go of it, even though he probably shouldn't.
14 Darren Sproles (RB)
In week two of the season, Sproles suffered a most-unfortunate ACL tear that sidelined him for the rest of the year. He's been one of the best all-purpose backfield weapons for the last decade, fusing pass-catching and running ability into a smaller size that has a quick burst at any given moment. Next season he'll be 35, and it's a tall task for anybody to come off of an injury like this at that age in the NFL.
There's just not much left for Sproles to do, and his status to return at all is so up in the air at this point. The Eagles probably aren't going to resign him, and adapting on a new roster coming off an injury like this would incredibly difficult. Sproles can walk away with his head held high, after a stellar 12-year career.
13 Eric Decker (WR)
Decker hobbled through the 2017 season as a peripheral target on the Titans' roster; a far cry from the best of his career, which featured numerous 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He clearly wasn't the target that Marcus Mariota needed to up his game, and considering his age and injury history, there's a lot of doubt that he'll return for the 2018 campaign in Tennessee.
Actually, there should be doubt that Decker would want to return to the league at all next year. He seems to have not only lost a step, but there's questions as to which receiving corps he could break into and actually make a difference. This appears to be the end of he road for him.
12 Jay Cutler (QB)
As 2017 was intended to be a one-off season where Cutler collects a paycheck for showing up with a former coach, there is next to no chance he would want to come back next season. He's out of his prime, his heart isn't in it, and he stands nothing to gain by playing another season when he was already slated for a broadcast job. Make no mistake, Cutler will be returning to retirement very soon.
As expected, his season with the Dolphins didn't yield any kind of success, despite the presence of Adam Gase as head coach. Cutler was simply mailing it in to collect one last paycheck, and the Dolphins were the ones to take the bait. At least Ryan Tannehill will be returning from injury next season.
11 Jamaal Charles (RB)
The experiment between Charles and the Broncos ended up being a disaster, with Denver never giving him the amount of touches he wanted. On top of it all, they decreased as the season went on. There's no question about how distraught Charles was over the whole situation, and he ripped the organization for his lack of playing time in the second half of the season.
While he's probably going to want to go on to another team next year in an attempt to be a difference-maker, it's probably best if Charles just hangs up the cleats. He's not going to be a lead running back at this point in his career no matter where he goes, and risking further injury isn't really worth it. Charles is undoubtedly one of the best runners of his generation, but he'll need some good fortune to get what he wants, which is continuing to play in the NFL in 2018.
10 Harry Douglas (WR)
Even in his prime, Douglas was only a so-so talent, and now that he's in his 30s, there's not much reason for him to return for another year. Another member of the Titans' receiving corps, he just doesn't have much value at this time in his career, and his production has slipped over the last several seasons. This year, Douglas barely played at all in Tennessee.
Receivers who aren't elite talents have usually hung up the cleats by the age of 33, and though it's admirable that Douglas is trying to keep his career going, it's ultimately going to be a losing battle. There won't be any interest in him to any notable degree. This is a pretty safe bet for retirement, all things considered.
9 Drew Brees (QB)
Now that he's 39, you have to wonder how much longer can Brees hang on without suffering the regression that typically comes to quarterbacks around this age. There's no question the Saints had a very good 2017 campaign, but they also were able to transition to a run-first offense. Ordinarily, they'd have been led by Brees and the passing game, and now the offense goes through running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.
The fact that Brees is no longer under contract presents a bit of a problem. The Saints will have to resign him for a good amount of money, but there's no guarantee that they'll get anything out of it that resembles Brees' normal quality of play. Essentially, the money could end up being wasted because of his age. Another year of activity usually ruins quarterbacks at this age, and it wouldn't be a surprise if the same thing happened to Brees, as good as his career has been.
8 Andre Ellington (RB)
At one time, it seemed like Ellington was primed to take over the starting role in the Cardinals' backfield. Now, he's barely hanging onto a roster spot with the Texans, and probably won't make the team in 2018. Now in his late-20s, the clock on his NFL shelf-life is clearly running out, and he'll need to go above and beyond to make a roster next season.
Retirement is honestly the better option in all likelihood. Running backs generally have shorter careers to begin with, and Ellington was never an elite player. He's regressed quickly, and sometimes it's just better to cut your losses instead of continuing to attempt to excel in circumstances that aren't doing you any favors.
7 Kenny Britt (WR)
The Browns signing of Britt turned out to be a complete disaster in every way possible. After inking him to a four-year deal, he promptly provided almost nothing in return, and never established a rapport with DeShone Kizer at all. He was cut mid-season, and was picked up by the Patriots, where he then had the opportunity to play in the postseason.
But the writing is on the wall for Britt. It's clear that his career is on a downward trajectory, and he won't an integral member of any team in 2018, if he decides to play at all. Britt should be looking to retire, but he may give it one more go, if he can find enough money from a bidder this offseason.
6 Mark Sanchez (QB)
You may be surprised to know that Sanchez is actually still in the league, saving as a backup for the Bears, with absolutely no chance of starting again barring severe injury. Make no mistake, Sanchez is at the end of the line, and he will soon be out of the league all together. No team would now be willing to give him a chance at a legitimately important role.
He's been on a downward slide ever since leaving the Jets, and after stops in Philly, Chicago and Dallas, it's clear that Sanchez is no longer starter-material. He's a prime candidate to announce retirement from the NFL, and go into broadcasting in the PAC-12, as he's a former USC quarterback.
5 Frank Gore (RB)
The question for Gore will be, in determining whether or not he plays in 2018; is where I'm going giving a legitimate opportunity to win a Super Bowl? He has nothing else left to prove, and he's been one of the toughest, most productive running backs of his generation. Three years wasted with the Colts hurt his chances to get a ring, but he stuck it out anyway.
There will be a market for Gore to go to a contender, but he'll have to consider whether or not another year of punishment will be worth it. Plus, he probably isn't going to be a lead running back in his mid-30s. If Gore does play, he's best off just waiting until late in the year, so he can sign on with a team that knows they'll be in the playoffs. Otherwise, he should just call it quits now.
4 Terrelle Pryor (WR)
Pryor's progress as an NFL wide receiver was halted this year, where he turned in a horrible performance on what was a total prove-it contract with the Redskins. Now, what kind of market is there really going to be for him? It's not likely any team would be willing to give him any kind of an important role, and he'd have to work his way back up to gaining the trust of a new head coach.
It all just seems like the one season where Pryor excelled in Cleveland is turning out to be an anomaly. It's hard to really expect otherwise, considering just how infrequently players can effectively switch positions in the NFL. Give him credit for trying, but a job as a coach or broadcaster seems to be a better use of his skill.
3 Sam Bradford (QB)
Even though Bradford has successfully rehabbed yet another injury, how many more is it going to take for him to call it quits? Of course, any competitor is going to want to keep playing, but this has been the same old song and dance with Bradford going back years now. It doesn't seem like the Vikings are interested in making him their long-term starter, and who else would really pay up for him?
It's unfortunate to say, but injuries have likely derailed Bradford's entire career. it's just so difficult to come back from something like this a third time, and he'll have to do it as he goes into his 30s. Ultimately, the best decision would be to call it a day, even though he'd ideally want one more chance at redemption.
2 Eddie Lacy (RB)
Lacy crashed and burned in Seattle this year, as he wasn't able to regain the level of play we saw with the Packers before his injury. Running behind a sub-par offensive line certainly didn't help, but his own deficiencies were on full display as well. At this point, there isn't going to be a clear-cut market for him, and anybody willing to sign him would be taking a flyer.
It's clear that Lacy has lost multiple steps since his injury, and that he just isn't the same player. For an NFL running back, a position which has a naturally short shelf-life anyway, there really isn't any point in trying to prolong a career that is going nowhere. Lacy may not actually retire, but if it doesn't happen this year, it will be coming down the pike.
1 Larry Fitzgerald (WR)
For someone who is a first-ballot Hall-Of-Famer, Fitzgerald should feel no shame in walking from the game with his head held high. The Cardinals are about to enter at least a partial rebuilding period, with the exit of head coach Bruce Arians and the retirement of Carson Palmer, leaving a void at quarterback that needs to be filled. For a player who likely only has one season left, that's not the ideal set of circumstances.
Nonetheless, Fitzgerald has confirmed that he will return for one more year in Arizona. It's hard to blame him for sticking around, considering the legacy he's built for himself with the team. But really, it's the end of the line for him after a great career, and 2018 will merely be his farewell tour, a la Kobe's last season with an uncompetitive Lakers team.