10 NFL players who should be thinking about retirement
Football is a brutal sport, so it’s no surprise NFL careers are not exactly long-lasting. But in some cases, players are able to weather the repeated storms and carve out long, successful careers. It’s rare when you break it down by the numbers, but it does happen.
Eventually however, the game catches up to everyone and things begin to break down, the grind becomes more than a person can bear, and the decision to retire becomes paramount. Some go out on their own terms, but most are forced to leave the game they love whether they like it or not.
We’ve seen those two scenarios in recent years with the willing retirement of quarterback Peyton Manning and the forced retirement of countless others. Even guys like Tony Romo and Jay Cutler surprised many by taking broadcasting jobs this season over returning for another season, though neither has officially said he is done.
Here’s a look at 10 players who should be thinking about retirement.
10. Carson Palmer, QB, Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals have begun looking into the future at quarterback, but for now, they’re sticking with Carson Palmer. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing as he’s clearly got a little left in the tank. But we know the former Heisman Trophy winner has considered stepping away.
“My intent was to take some time after the season to get away and see where I was physically and mentally,” Palmer said in a February statement. “On both fronts, I can say I’m ready to get back to work and prepare for the 2017 season. This is a phenomenal group with a very special opportunity in front of it. I know how rare that is and I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of it.”
The Cardinals gave Palmer a one-year contract extension last August so that he wouldn’t be a lame-duck quarterback in 2017, but there’s a chance neither side opts to see that final season. Once retirement gets into a player’s head and they begin taking months to decide their future, it won’t be too much longer before the decision to hang them up is made.
Is that a guarantee Palmer will retire following the 2017 season? No, but it’s a very plausible scenario. And even if he opts to return in 2018, it’s extremely unlikely he’ll play beyond that.
9. Karlos Dansby, LB, Cardinals
It may surprise some to realize that the 35-year-old Karlos Dansby is still playing football, but he is. And he’s still playing at a surprisingly high level.
But at some point or another, Dansby has to begin considering retirement, right? Well, not according to him. In fact, Dansby, who will turn 36 during the 2017 regular season, insists he’s nowhere close to hanging up his cleats and intends on playing until he’s discussed among the greatest to ever play linebacker in the NFL.
“The stigma of it — I’m breaking all of that,” Dansby said in September. “I’m breaking all barriers. People say, ‘Oh, old linebackers can’t play.’ But they see me moving, getting to the ball, making tackles in space, doing things that I’ve been doing since I’ve been in the league.”
After a short stint with the Miami Dolphins, Dansby is now back to where it all began — the Arizona Cardinals. And short of a Super Bowl, he has only one box left to check on his to-do list, and that’s another interception. With one this season, he’ll have 20 total in his career, making him only the fifth player in league history with 20 career interceptions and 40 career sacks.
Should Dansby record that interception in 2017, the talk of retirement is bound to get much more serious.
8. Anquan Boldin, WR, free agent
Anquan Boldin has been kicking butt and taking names since 2003, but he nearly called it quits following the 2016 season. Very nearly, in fact.
When push came to shove however, the 36-year-old Boldin decided he wasn’t quite ready to put the bow on his professional career and in March, announced he would return in 2017. Now he’s just waiting for a team to pick him up.
“I’m still healthy, still going strong,” Boldin said in April. “I still have the passion.”
At his age, Boldin walks a fine line between risking one last chance to play the game he loves and being forced into retirement. Luckily, he does have a few teams interested including perhaps the Lions, for whom he played last year, so he may get one last chance. But after the 2017 season, it will likely be the end for Boldin and his very impressive NFL career.
7. Julius Peppers, DE, Panthers
Someday, Julius Peppers is going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But for now, the 37-year-old plans to continue playing and the Carolina Panthers have afforded him that opportunity.
“Julius, after taking some time to reflect during the offseason, has decided that he still has the desire and enthusiasm for the game, and his intention is to play a 16th NFL season,” Peppers’ agent, Carl Carey, told ESPN in March.
Peppers is coming off of three strong seasons with the Green Bay Packers, but entering his 16th NFL season, it’s hard to gauge exactly how much the pass rusher has left. Still, to his credit, he didn’t miss a single game in Green Bay and appeared on the injury report only three times; all three times were forced days off.
The love of the game is strong for Peppers, but 2017 will likely be it for him.
6. Victor Cruz, WR, free agent
Cruz was a breakout star for the New York Giants earlier this decade, but injuries have completely derailed his career, and now he has to consider his future.
Cruz played just six games in 2014 because of a torn tendon in his knee. He then missed the entire 2015 season due to calf surgery. Cruz returned last season for the Giants and caught 39 passes for 586 yards and a touchdown, but that was it. He fell behind on the depth chart in New York and even complained about his role.
There was some talk early in the offseason about Cruz meeting with the Denver Broncos, but nothing materialized on that front. He visited the Carolina Panthers and the meeting went well, but Cruz still has not signed.
Cruz will be 31 years old in November but said this week he plans to keep playing.
“This ain’t no retirement party. I’m playing football. I’m a football player. I want to join a team this upcoming week, God willing, and be a part of an organization to help win football games and ultimately win a Super Bowl. That’s my only goal.”
If Cruz intends to keep going, he’ll have to remain in shape over the next several months. Perhaps he’ll start receiving calls once injuries pile up in camp.