One of the most difficult times of your life might occur when you realize that it is time to switch careers. This is especially the case for professional athletes who have literally spent their entire life playing the sport of their choice. Which can perhaps make it at least a little bit more acceptable that some players definitely do not seem to be willing to retire until they might have to be dragged off the field.
Though you also just have to hope that they have saved up enough from those NFL paycheques to help make that transition into the next stage in life all the easier. The light at the end of the tunnel is coming for the 20 athletes on our list and by the time the 2020 NFL season is kicking off, there is a very real chance that they are not going to be around in the league anymore.
In fact, in several of the cases such as Thomas Davis and Darren Sproles who have both spent over a decade in the league, that is all but a guarantee as they have both announced that their retirement will come at the end of this season. And even if some of these players have some pretty cushy jobs right now, like John Denney who has been the long snapper in Miami since 2005, he is still also turning 40 in the offseason!
Make sure you take the time out of your Sunday, Monday or Thursday to see some of these legends in action whenever you get the chance because there is a very good chance they will be out of the league by 2020.
20 Josh McCown
Josh McCown still has an enormous amount of value to the New York Jets in the role of their backup QB. While Sam Darnold has had some impressive moments and will clearly by the QB for years to come, there is nothing quite like the veteran leadership that McCown provides him. But the writing still might be on the wall as far as McCown's career is concerned and by 2020, he might be enjoying his time away from the film room. McCown is currently working on a one-year deal that makes him a free agent in 2019, which is also when he turns 40.
19 Darren Sproles
Sadly when it comes to Darren Sproles there is no guesswork involved on if he will be on an NFL roster come 2020, as he announced back in July that this was going to be his last year playing in the NFL. Sproles cited not wanting his career to end on an injury, as the previous season had ended when he tore his ACL and broke his arm in Week 3, as a reason to come back. Which might make it all the more heartbreaking that Sproles has struggled with a hamstring issue that has sidelined him for most of this year.
18 Matt Cassel
Matt Cassel's career was changed forever when Tom Brady went down with an injury in 2008 allowing Matt to step in and lead the team to a 10-5 record and more importantly for him, eventually saw him get traded to Kansas City where he signed a nice contract. But Cassel has failed to replicate that Patriots magic anywhere else and is currently backing up Matt Stafford in Detroit. And while he did have six passes in the blowout loss to the Giants in Week 1, that might not be enough to make retirement not seem like a tempting off for Cassel. Cassel is currently signed to a one-year deal with Detroit and will become a free agent in 2019. He is currently 36 years old.
17 Antonio Gates
The writing was all but on the wall for the end of Antonio Gates' career this past offseason when the Chargers and he parted ways in April. But after Hunter Henry tore his ACL in May, the team decided that bringing Gates back in was a strong move and signed him in September. And while the Chargers are cursed with injuries it seems, there probably won't be enough of them to keep Gates employed until 2020. Through five games the Chargers have been running with Virgil Green and Antonio Gates, though both have a little over 100 yards which is not a lot to be inspired by.
16 Mike Wallace
The height of Mike Wallace's career came early on when in his second and third year as a member of the Steelers he recorded over 1,257 and 1,193 total yards to go along with 18 touchdowns. And while there have been other years where Wallace has had flashes of brilliance, it is very possible that his time is finally starting to wind down. Wallace appeared in two games this year for the Eagles, recorded no catches and then fractured his fibula. While his year might not be done as he does have time to recover, Wallace who is now 32, will be a free agent in 2019 and might not see a more appealing option on the table than what retirement looks like.
15 Matt Schaub
When Matt Schaub was the quarterback of the Houston Texans he definitely had some impressive years. At least in terms of yardage as he threw for over 4,000 yards in 2009, 2010 and 2012. But Schaub struggled in 2013 and was benched in favor of Case Keenum. Schaub then backed up David Carr in Oakland and played a few games for Baltimore after Flacco was injured. At the moment he is backing up Matt Ryan in Atlanta which is fittingly the team that he first played for. At 37 years old and 15 years of experience in the league, Matt might finally be looking forward to a September away from football and could retire when his contract expires this offseason.
14 Julius Peppers
The Carolina Panthers have had many exciting moments this year but through their first five games of the year, Julius Peppers failed to record a sack. Something that is definitely unusual when you consider he had 11 last year. Peppers has admitted in the past that he has spent years considering post-NFL careers, including in broadcasting. Peppers signed a one-year deal with the Panthers last offseason and while the team might offer him another contract in the offseason, at 39 years old, perhaps Peppers will make the decision on if to try and resign him easier on the team and retire.
13 Brandon Marshall
Brandon Marshall was released by the New York Giants this past April leading many people to think that his career had come to a close when he suffered an ankle injury that needed surgery and ended his season after just five games. But Seattle gave him a call, signing him to a one-year deal in May. While Marshall recorded a TD in his first game, the rest of the year might be working more as proof that he should have stayed off the field. And if he can't turn it around, he might struggle to convince anyone otherwise this offseason.
12 Benjamin Watson
When Benjamin Watson was asked about the potential of retirement after the 2017 season ended, he admitted that he was not too sure as to what the next year held for him but he was happy with the career he had accomplished. But then the Saints called him in March with a one-year deal for $2 million. The fact that he had spent three previous seasons there (from 2013-15) may have definitely influenced his decision to say yes. But convincing Watson who will be turning 38 this December to sign yet another contract might be a significantly harder challenge.
11 Sebastian Janikowski
Sebastian Janikowski was drafted by the Oakland Raiders way back in 2000 and proceeded to play for the team for over a decade until a back injury saw his 2017 season come to an end before it even started. Janikowski clearly did not want his career to end that way though, even if it wasn't Oakland who would hire him. Janikowski is currently playing on a one-year deal for the Seattle Seahawks that he signed back in April. Through the first five games of this season, he missed three field goals, which might have some Seattle fans wishing he had stayed away.
10 Marshawn Lynch
When Marshawn Lynch came out of his short-lived retirement that lasted all of a few months back in 2017 it was because the opportunity presented itself for him to play for the Oakland Raiders, a team that Marshawn idolized as he grew up in the area. Which might mean that when the team packs up and heads over to Las Vegas, which could happen as early as the 2019 season, the team is going to have to do it with a new running back, unless they can convince Marshawn that skittles taste even better when eaten in Las Vegas.
9 Phil Dawson
Through the first few games of the NFL season, Phil Dawson was not called on a lot to kick for the Arizona Cardinals, only being asked to attempt a few field goals. Which has been unfortunate. This is the second year of Dawson's contract with the Cardinals as he will become a free agent this offseason. While it is possible that he'll continue his trip around the NFC West, having previously also kicked for the 49ers, it might be more likely that Dawson has spent most of this season making sure he was financially set to retire.
8 Haloti Ngata
Haloti Ngata was an outstanding member of the Baltimore Ravens for close to a decade, which included helping the team with the Super Bowl. His last few years in Detroit, however, might have left some things to be desired. This included an unfortunate torn bicep injury that saw him only play in five games back in 2017. Ngata signed as a free agent with the Eagles in the offseason but has struggled with a minor calf injury. Ngata is currently 34 years old, and while there might be some teams out there who would love to have him in a rotational role, the fact that he signed a one-year deal with the Eagles might be a sign that he knows his time is quickly running out.
7 Brent Grimes
The main talk around town in Tampa Bay for the start of the 2018 season was centered around the play of Ryan Fitzpatrick (followed by his benching). Which means you might forget that Brent Grimes is one of the cornerbacks for the team. Though, to be fair, at 35 years old, that might not be the case for very long. Grimes is currently signed to a one-year deal that sees him become a free agent in 2019. And while Grimes is a four-timePro Bowl player, none of that happened as a member of the Buccaneers which might leave many front offices thinking that the writing could be on the wall for him.
6 Donald Penn
Donald Penn has split his career almost evenly between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Oakland Raiders. But sadly this year might see him spend the most time on the sidelines as he went down with a groin injury in Week 4. Penn is also experiencing his first year on the right side of the line as the Raiders drafted Kolton Miller to be their future LT in the 2018 draft. Penn will get the option to consider retirement after the 2019 season when he would be 37. Though that might not stop the Raiders from severing their relationship with Penn as early as this offseason and lead to an "early" retirement.
5 John Denney
Does the name John Denney jump out to you? If so it might be because you are a fan of the Miami Dolphins who Denney has played the entirety of his career since 2005. And while the position of the long snapper is not the most strenuous in the world, nobody would blame Denney if the fact that he will be turning 40 in December will have him thinking about wanting to transition to a new stage in life. Though if Denney does want to keep playing, not much will stand in his way as he currently has not missed a game in his entire career.
4 Adam Vinatieri
It would definitely not be the most surprising thing in the world if Adam Vinatieri was still kicking in the league by the time the 2020 season kicks off. But when you consider that he is the oldest player in the league at 45, the idea of him finally deciding to take some time away from football is also not the most outlandish thing. Vinatieri is going to already go down as the greatest kicker of all-time which also means that even if the Colts let him test free agency this offseason, another team offering him a contract might keep him around for perhaps one more run at another ring.
3 Vernon Davis
Vernon Davis was at the best of his game during the 2009 and 2010 season when he was able to haul in over 900 yards both seasons and an impressive 13 touchdowns in the 2009 campaign. And while you might forget a lot about the back half of his career as a member of the Redskins, his 2017 year was more serviceable than most of his others and he had 648 yards. But early in in 2018, Davis was invisible. Davis is currently hampered with a hamstring injury. His is contracted through the 2019 season but a continued poor performance might see him being cut followed by a retirement speech.
2 Thomas Davis
One of the reasons as to why players might start considering their retirement is because they notice other players on the team who might be more deserving of an increased role. Thomas Davis has spent 14 years in the league, but when discussing his decision to retire after this NFL season concludes, he admitted that it was partially motivated by the talented Shaq Thompson.
"I'm pretty sure coming back next year it'll be in a reduced role. Shaq has earned the right," said Davis last January.
At the time Davis also probably wasn't expecting to be suspended for the first four games of this season for violating the league's performance-enhancing drugs policy.
1 Tom Brady
You might hate him, but the league is a better place because Tom Brady is in it. As debatably the greatest quarterback of all-time, you are hopefully grateful for any opportunity you get to see him in action because you will surely be telling your future kids about him. But if you want to jump ahead to the 2020 season, it might finally be the moment the rest of the AFC East has been waiting for and it will be an NFL without Brady. A situation that might be even more likely if Brady can add another ring to his hand. And at his age - even if he does not show it - significant injuries which can happen to anyone (including Tom in the past) could also be a career ender.