Every year in the NFL new players come, and old players go. Many of the players that leave the league are doing so unwillingly as they don’t get signed or can’t make a team. But there are other players that through long and successful careers have earned the right to retire on their own terms.
The problem is, they don’t always want to go! In this article, I will be breaking down which players need to call it a career and hang them up this offseason. Let’s get started!
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
I know, I know, Tom Brady is about to play in his twentieth Super Bowl, that might be a slight exaggeration, but not all that far off, as the guy seems to be in the Super Bowl every year, so why do I think he should be calling a career? Well, this one comes down to legacy. Brady, depending on who you ask, is either the greatest quarterback of all time or on the very short list to be the GOAT. At this point, you would have to be an extreme Brady hater not to have him somewhere in the top two or three on the list of the greatest to ever take a snap.
And at this point, Brady can only hurt his legacy. He has done everything you can possibly do on the football field. He holds all kinds of passing records and has a ring for every finger on his right hand. Clearly, Brady doesn’t have the arm strength anymore as just about every play he drops back and dumps off a short pass to Julian Edelman across the middle to one of the running backs out of the backfield. The days of him throwing deep bombs to Randy Moss are long gone. Yeah, he still ended the season with more than respectable numbers, but clearly, things are winding to a close for Brady.
This year Brady saw his passing yards and touchdowns decrease from last year, while he threw more interceptions in 2018 than he has in any season since 2012. He actually threw more interceptions this year, than he did in all of the last two years combined. And that is with him throwing far fewer deep balls than in the past. Brady didn’t crack the top five in the league in passing yards, passing touchdowns, QB rating, completions, attempts, or completion percentage this year. His QB rating of 97.7 was good for 12th in the league.
Tom Brady is no longer an elite quarterback. It might hurt to hear or say out loud for Pats fans, but it is certainly the truth at this point. He still is undeniably a winner though, and if he manages to sneak out of Atlanta with his sixth Super Bowl title this week, it would be perfect timing for him to ride off into the sunset as a champion one more time. If he loses another Super Bowl, he will tie Jim Kelley as the quarterback with the most ever Super Bowl losses, with four.
After winning his first three trips to the big game, he is just 2-3 in his last five. And both of those wins took something special to make happen, with the Seahawks forgetting to run the ball on the one-yard line getting him one title, and the Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead in the other. If one or two plays went differently, Brady could have lost five straight Super Bowls. That type of talk is not what Brady wants to be remembered for. Win or lose, the time for Brady to call it a career is after Super Bowl 53 next week.
Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
The next guy I want to highlight is Tom Brady’s favorite target, tight end Rob Gronkowski. When he was healthy and in his prime, Gronk was the most unguardable player in NFL history. He was too big for the secondary to guard and too fast for a linebacker to hold him. His hands were the best I had ever seen on a tight end. In reality, he literally changed how the tight end position was played. There were great pass-catching tight ends before Gronk, Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez stick out as two of the best ever, but Gronk was the focal point of the highest-powered offense the league had ever seen. This was unchartered territory for a tight end.
And it really showed this year as his production fell off of a cliff. Statistically, Gronk had the worst season of his career this year. His 682 receiving yards was the third lowest he has ever posted and in the two seasons where he had fewer yards he played eight games and seven games respectively. And that has been the trend for the big tight end as he hasn’t played a full sixteen games schedule since 2011. Gronk had a career-low three touchdowns this year.
I don’t think we will see prime Gronkowski ever again. He is four years removed from having a good year, and his health is falling apart quickly. It is sad to see him out there limping around doing his best to stay on the field. This feels like a prize fighter that just refuses to stop fighting.
At some point, he is going to have to acknowledge the fact that he is past his prime, his body has failed him, and that playing longer is only going to hurt his long-term health. As far as storylines go there wouldn’t be a much better one than Brady and Gronk hooking up for a last-minute game-winning touchdown to win yet another Super Bowl and then both of them retiring together after the game. The NFL is a sucker for a storybook ending, and this would be a perfect fairytale ending for two of the best to ever play the game.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
Larry Fitzgerald recently announced that he will be back for his sixteenth season next year. Fitzgerald has spent his entire career with the Cardinals and is a first ballot Hall of Famer. The ageless wonder has been one of the best wide receivers in the game for each of his fifteen seasons in the league and has the second most career receiving yards in NFL history. But last year his age started to catch up with him.
In 2018 Fitzgerald had his lowest total ever for receiving yards with 734, and his six touchdowns were the second lowest total he has had in any season where he played all sixteen games.
And when you look at where the Arizona franchise currently stands, it makes you wonder why Larry doesn’t just call it a career. The Cardinals used rookie QB, Josh Rosen, last season, and he looked, well, like a rookie. Rosen had flashes of greatness, but the fact of the matter is, the Cardinals finished with the worst record in the NFL last year and are at least a couple of years away from being competitive again.
By the time the Cards are relevant again, Larry won’t be. Maybe he feels like he owes the franchise to help tutor the young QB until he gets up to speed? Whatever the case may be, I say its time for Larry to retire and take his place amongst the greats in Canton.
Eli Manning, New York Giants
The first three guys on this list are still playing at a relatively high level. Yeah, they aren’t what they used to be, but they are still above average players at their position. That isn’t the case with Eli Manning. Manning is a two-time Super Bowl champion that is well past his prime at this point. Manning has been the model of reliability in his time in New York. He once started 210 consecutive games for the G-men, the second longest streak in NFL history. But he just doesn’t have it anymore.
When you look at the Giants roster, they have two of the most explosive young players in the NFL in Saquan Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. You have to wonder how great these guys could be if they didn’t have a dinosaur under center running the offense.
Last year Manning had a QB rating of just 92.4. That was good for 21st in the league. Behind guys like Ryan Tannehill, Michell Trubisky, and rookie Baker Mayfield. He also got sacked 47 times last season, one of the highest totals in the league. Eli, do yourself a favor and follow your big brother’s example and call it a career.
Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins
Adrian Peterson’s legacy is going to be a strange one. He was the best running back in the league for a handful of years before a bizarre child abuse scandal sent his career into a tailspin. Those charges cost him basically all of the 2014 season, and in retrospect, that suspension, and a 2016 knee injury, likely cost him a shot at the all-time NFL rushing record. Peterson currently ranks number eight all-time in rushing yards with 13,318. His 4.7 yards per carry is higher than any other guy in the top ten besides Barry Sanders.
The fact that Peterson was able to make a comeback last year with the Washington Redskins and rush for a thousand yards cemented his place amongst the greatest running backs to ever play the game.
Everyone left Peterson for dead, and he was able to prove all the haters wrong with the strong season at age 33. An age that is considered ancient for running backs in today’s game. Right now, the timing feels perfect for Peterson to call it quits. The Redskins looked completely lost last year after Alex Smith broke his leg and with Smith possible done forever, the Redskins look like they are at the start of a multi-year rebuilding process.
You can’t rebuild with a senior citizen at running back, so they will likely give some younger guys playing time. AP you are an all-time great, don’t go out splitting time with some kid that doesn’t deserve to carry your jock strap. You proved the haters wrong and can go out on your own terms, now is the time.
You could make a case for several other guys to be on this list. Big Ben Roethlisberger can’t seem to play nice in the sandbox, and all his best guys are abandoning him. Joe Flacco just lost his job to a rookie QB that can’t throw the ball and looks washed up. And Adam Vinatieri is a million years old and has played over 300 career games. But for my money, the guys listed above would all be best-served going out on their own terms and retiring this offseason.
Thanks for reading and good luck betting on Super Bowl 53!