The list of athletes this past NFL season is excruciating to hear, but for some it was meant to be while others had crazy good talent and decided it was time to move on. Then there were others like Ricardo Lockette who unfortunately suffered career ending injuries and had no choice, but to retire. Other retirees including Beast Mode and Megatron also felt it was time which was sad to hear them not stepping on the field again and competing, but it was their decision. Fans of course would want to see the list of retired players keep on playing or at least one more.
The most notable retiree was Peyton Manning. He played in the NFL for 18 seasons and ended it by winning the Super Bowl, the perfect ending. Now he’s 40 and can enjoy retirement and his future plans. Retirement for him is understandable. That’s why he, Kobe Bryant, and Abby Wambach were awarded the Icon award at the ESPYs because each of them stood out in their sports. That being football, basketball, and soccer.
Retiring is something that comes eventually for all so it's inevitable that everyone can’t keep on playing at the highest level so other players fill in. It’s not just Lynch and Johnson, there are other big names like Jared Allen, Justin Tuck, Greg Jennings, Heath Miller, and others. There’s nothing anyone can do about it because in football you have to expect to get hit. Whether its on defense or offense no matter what players will bump into their teammates or get into a collision with the receiver or whoever. So eventually NFL players feel their body can’t handle more and they retire. Now that the NFL is coming back, the thought of who else will retire soon comes to mind.
16 Trent Richardson
The former number three pick back in 2012, Trent Richardson hasn’t really became the star player as expected. Richardson recently got released by the Oakland Raiders and has yet to put up 1,000 rushing yard season while in the NFL. Sure, he’s still young, but he hasn’t really proven anything in the NFL, other than he's an extreme disappointment. If anything he’d serve the role as a backup. At least teams haven’t given up on him since he’s still in the NFL, but now as a free agent. If he doesn’t sign with a team and turns his career around then retirement may be an option for him after the season.
Richardson has never been able to stick with a team for long, and teams often tend to give undrafted rookies a shot if they're stumped for depth. It's hard to picture the Alabama alumnus sticking around much longer.
15 Fred Jackson
A name fans might not have heard from for quite a while is Fred Jackson. Jackson has become a player whose able to catch and rush, but now his career seemed to fall down. As of now, he’s currently a free agent and has expressed he still wants to play, but would also serve best as a backup role if anything. Now at 35 years old without a team, it may be time to try something else. For most of his career, he was with the Buffalo Bills and did well with them, even into his 30s, but age eventually caught up to him. Then he played for the Seattle Seahawks last season, but didn’t do much so unless somehow the tables turn for him teams may move on meaning he may as well.
At 35 years old, it's very unlikely Jackson can keep going, particularly due to the fact that he's a running back. At best, he'll sign with a team late in the season, who's vying for a Super Bowl and would like Jackson's presence in their locker room.
14 Terrence Newman
Possibly an underrated cornerback, but still made his name heard is current Minnesota Vikings corner, Terrence Newman. Newman started his career on the Dallas Cowboys and was there for a while and joined other teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and now the Vikings. Throughout his whole career, he’s caught 40 interceptions which is solid enough especially since the cornerback job is a tough one to handle. He had a good run with the Bengals, but once they gave up on him, it was clear it was because he had lost a few steps.
It won’t be surprising if he decides to retire, possibly even during the season if no one picks him up. It's always possible some team signs him for depth after preseason, but odds are a team would have to be ravaged by injuries before taking Newman on their roster.
13 Andre Johnson
Andre Johnson is now heading to his third team in three seasons and in fact, it's his third AFC South team. The Houston Texans released their franchise's all-time leading receiver in the 2015 offseason, as Andre Johnson wanted the opportunity to play for a Super Bowl contender. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts, thinking that Andrew Luck's emergence may get him his first ring. Unfortunately, Luck suffered injuries and had a down year overall. Johnson's game took a huge dip as well, and the Colts decided to release him.
It's a little surprising that the Titans elected to give Johnson a two-year deal when he showed signs of decline last year. Obviously they're hoping Johnson's veteran presence will click with Mariota. Either way this feels like a last stop for Johnson in his NFL career. It would take an amazing year for Johnson to stick around in 2017.
12 Phil Dawson
Someone who has certainly aged, but is still around as a kicker for the San Francisco 49ers, Phil Dawson. He’s been around the NFL for 18 seasons already and played most of his career with the Cleveland Browns. Although, it may not seem like a kicker’s position is all that important, we all saw in last year's playoffs how valuable a kicker could be (Blair Walsh, anyone?).
Besides that’s what teams are supposed to do which is put points on the board. His stats certainly prove he’s pretty accurate making 386 field goals out of 457 throughout his whole career. It’s nice to see someone at his old still play the game of football, but he may want to retire as well. Obviously kickers can play the game longer, as they don't take the punishment every other player on the field does, but you wonder how much longer Dawson wants to be doing it. Due to his age, he has to be on a list like this.
11 Reggie Bush
It’s sad to hear this name, but Reggie Bush may have to call it quits as well. He’s only had a couple good runs in the NFL, but at 31 years old, he hasn’t really broken out as the player many expected, Bush serves mainly as a role of a backup and catching the occasional pass out of the backfield. Right now, he’s on the Buffalo Bills behind LeSean McCoy and since the Bills released Karlos Williams it's now or never for Bush to show what he can do.
He’s been with other teams like the New Orleans Saints, the Miami Dolphins the San Francisco 49ers, and Detroit Lions, but has only progressed slowly.
It's a shame that Bush has had trouble staying healthy throughout his career because he has always shown flashes of brilliance and when he's on top of his game, he's actually a very productive player. The frustration he's endured from injuries may eventually catch up to him this year.
10 Vince Wilfork
Quite frankly, it's a little surprising Vince Wilfork chose to return for the 2016 season, as it was clear last year he had lost a step. It's normal, considering he's lugging a lot of weight around in his mid 30s and there's a lot of hard miles on his body.
Spending most of his career on the New England Patriots and now with the Houston Texans, this big guy continues to push others around. Wilfork is definitely a person many can’t push around. What’s even crazy is he once caught an interception and ran it back for a touchdown as the defensive tackle. He definitely has something to be proud of being able to play over a decade in the NFL and still doing it at 34 years old. However after this season he could be done pushing others around.
If it is indeed his swan song, it's been a heck of a career for the former Miami Hurricane.
9 Matt Schaub
Yup, you may have forgotten this, but Matt Schaub is indeed still around in the NFL.
Matt Schaub whose currently back on the team he started with which is the Atlanta Falcons seems like his time in the NFL is running out. Schaub has had some successful seasons, but that was with the Houston Texans and that feels like a long time ago now. These past few years he’s fallen off and is now in the backup role. He had a chance to start in Oakland, but he was quickly beaten out for the starting job by Derek Carr.
Unless Matt Ryan the starting quarterback of the Falcons gets hurt and Schaub is called up and somehow turns things around, it seems his time is coming to an end in the NFL. At least he’s still considered a good enough veteran to have as a quarterback even with his past struggles.
8 Steve Smith Sr.
This isn't really a prediction, as Steve Smith has made it clear that 2016 will be his last season. He was initially set to retire last year, but a torn Achilles ended his season and he came back because he didn't want to go out that way.
It’s incredible that Steve Smith Sr. is still able to complete at its highest level, but he continues to defy all odds. He started his career with the Carolina Panthers where he stood out more, being the number one target. Amazingly, he's still produced a lot for the Baltimore Ravens, being able to put up over 1,000 receiving yards. It’s hard to see Smith go.
Smith has contemplated on retirement before and almost didn’t play this season, but who knows this could be the last year he plays. With over 15 years in the NFL, he’s thankful to play in the NFL and showcase what he’s able to do on the field.
7 James Harrison
James Harrison retired back in 2013 as a Cincinnati Bengal, but then in 2014, he got a call from his old team the Pittsburgh Steelers. They needed a familiar face at linebacker. Not only did Harrison come back, but he looked rejuvenated and even wound up sticking around for the 2015 season.
Still he’s 38 years old so retirement may be in store for Harrison. As big and strong he is, he may decide to retire like he did before. Plus, there’s this ongoing possibility that he may have used performance enhancing drugs. He’s expressed that isn’t a distraction for him, but who knows maybe after this season things might be different. No matter what the reason is whether if it’s old age, PEDs, or just the mere decision to retire, Harrison will be remembered as a one of a kind athlete. He's been outspoken against Roger Goodell and the NFL, so it's very likely he's just fed up with the league.
6 Tony Romo
Tony Romo has his ups and downs as a quarterback. All the boos and cheers Romo receives just fuels him. Still, Romo has suffered many hand and shoulder injuries that doesn’t really help the Dallas Cowboys. Being the quarterback, Romo relies on his front line to protect him, but sometimes it's hard to run around the pocket. He’s come in the clutch in games before. Sure, he has fumbled the ball and thrown interceptions, but what quarterback hasn’t?
The only possible reasons he would retire would be because of age since he’s 36 years old and all the upper body injuries he’s dealt with. If Romo's healthy, odds are he'll stick around for several more years but we can't overlook the possibility that more injuries this season could spell the end for Romo. Plus, Dak Prescott has looked really good in preseason.
5 Jason Pierre Paul
Ever since his fireworks accident which scarred most of his right hand, Jason Pierre-Paul hasn’t been his same dominant self. He contemplated retirement after losing part of his right hand, but is still going and plays with a custom glove. The only problem is he definitely doesn’t want another one sack season and a combined total of 26 tackles.
It's obvious the hand is a hindrance for him and it may force him to retire. The good news is that for now, he’s still able to play football, however the bad news is that it may not be for long.
The timing of that fireworks incident couldn't have been worse for JPP, as he was in the process of negotiating a long-term deal with the Giants. Obviously the little snafu halted negotiations, as we no longer know what his future is. If he is indeed forced into retirement, that incident could very well become the dumbest incident of his life.
4 Michael Vick
Michael Vick is truly a phenomenal athlete so it’s sad to hear this will be his final year in the NFL. There may have been quarterbacks back in the days that were mobile before Vick, the only difference is he did it way better than any of them. It was exciting to watch him move around the field. Now as a free agent, he’s hoping to sign with a serious contender. There are rumors he could return to the Eagles or join the Cowboys or Seahawks.
There are many teams in need a quarterback like him even if he’s backup. If he doesn’t sign with a team then he’ll most likely retire. It's kind of amazing he continues to hang in there, and clearly it's because he still feels he can go. If Vick is to land anywhere, it will likely be due to a team needing relief due to injuries.
3 Adam Vinatieri
Adam Vinatieri who may go down as one of the greatest kickers not only because he’s been in the NFL for over two decades, but mainly because of the Super Bowl XXXVI and XXXVIII game winning kicks or even the fact that he was able to kick field goals in the snow. Plus, he’s made 503 field goals out of 598 and still counting. Standing at 43 years old, Vinatieri has proven he’s one of the best kickers of all time. Fans always doubt kickers because they like to watch touchdown passes or runs, but field goals actually mean a lot to the game of football and Vinatieri has proven that.
Theoretically, Vinatieri can keep kicking for another few years, but the game of football eventually takes its toll on everyone, no matter what position you play. At 43 years old, we have to put Vinatieri on this list.
2 Jamaal Charles
As good as a player Jamaal Charles is he can’t risk another crucial injury. He’s already had two torn ACLs in the past and has come back, but that’s something he definitely doesn’t want on a yearly basis. Having to even suffer an injury like that and being sidelined for a while sucks. He came back from both injuries, but the Kansas City Chiefs have a deep backfield with Charcandrick West, Spencer Ware, and Kniles Davis so any one of them are there to step up for him if something happens to him. The Chiefs actually improved as an offense without Charles as it forced them to get more creative. Running backs have short shelf lives, so we can't rule out another early retirement from a star RB going into next season.
Of course, fans would want to see Charles continue to compete, but being a running back, he’s been pushed around and tackled hard.
1 Drew Brees
Drew Brees still puts up great numbers, but the New Orleans Saints don't seem to be going anywhere in the NFC South. The Carolina Panthers have emerged as a team that looks like they will rule over the division for the next few years, while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem to be a team that is set to rise as Jameis Winston improves. The Saints seem to be stuck in limbo and year after year, Drew Brees seems to get a mediocre receiving corps. New Orleans hasn't done much to help him out, even trading away his no.1 target Jimmy Graham back in 2015. With Brees on a very expensive contract and the Saints not getting any better, it's possible Brees just decides to walk away from the game next year.
There's always the chance he could explore free agency, but the possibility of retirement can't be overlooked either.