The NFL offseason has gone into full swing, with Peyton Manning, Robert Griffin III and the New Orleans Saints bounties becoming headlines, but what about the former league stars like Hines Ward or Randy Moss who need to retire?
Last week, the Pittsburgh Steelers released longtime veteran wide receiver Hines Ward to cut down their salary cap. LaDainian Tomlinson has participated in interviews discussing the dysfunctional New York Jets, and Randy Moss has decided to join the viral video community.
What do all of these star players have in common? Well, they may all get into the Hall of Fame, but the real similarity is that they all need to retire.
Who else should join them?
The Pittsburgh Steelers decided to cut ties with the wide receiver after 14 years with the team. Hines Ward won two Super Bowls, a Super Bowl MVP and had four Pro Bowl appearances.
In this day and age, there is rarely an opportunity for a player to be drafted and spend his entire career with one team. Ward will go down as an all-time Steelers great. Why not just end it?
His production has slipped, and he would likely go to a team with little chance of winning anything significant if he wants to have serious playing time. Or he could sign for a contender—like the New England Patriots—who need depth at wide receiver.
But that would feel out of place for not only Steeler fans, but NFL fans throughout the country. Could you imagine hearing "Tom Brady passes to Hines Ward for a Patriots touchdown!"
Didn't think so.
After 211 regular season games, 1,088 regular season and playoff receptions and 95 receiving touchdowns in the regular season and playoffs, Ward should resist the cliché urge to keep playing until he's told he no longer can.
Leave with your dignity and pride intact and pursue other endeavors.
This picture is sad, isn't it? It's surely a far cry from his hay day. You know, back when he would invite 100 of his closest media friends over to watch him work out shirtless in his driveway or grab pom poms from cheerleaders and do a little dance.
Nowadays, Terrell Owens has resorted to playing flag football and entering an indoor football league no one has ever heard of. In all seriousness, who has heard of the IFL? It's actually called the Indoor Football League...original, right?
It's always sad seeing a superstar athlete decline so abruptly and have trouble coming to terms with "Father Time."
That guy is undefeated in his wars against athletes. Some win early battles, but they all lose the war.
Owens needs to wave the white flag and admit defeat. It's over.
Mr. Owens: Keep your health, join a broadcasting team and enjoy the new adventures of life and career. At least that way, you'll save some face and not strike out for a second season waiting by the phone for 17 weeks during the regular season for it to never ring.
Get the popcorn ready, T.O. You'll want a snack when your watching games on the coach this season.
Apparently, Randy Moss thinks he's still got it. That's to be expected by any professional athlete. They always think they can suit up and go at it.
The bigger problems lies in the fact that Moss actually thinks someone would want him. What he's failed to remember is his history of burning bridges with all his former employers.
That doesn't look good on a resume.
With 14,858 career receiving yards and 153 touchdowns in the books, Moss should stay put right where he is. It's highly unlikely any team will invite him into their locker room with the ever-present potential for him to sour the continuity.
Although, I will admit I wouldn't mind seeing his on-field antics again.
For my money, LaDainian Tomlinson is easily the best running back of the 2000s and of the past generation of backs. Unfortunately, he never got the chance to showcase his highlight-reel skills in the big game.
The five-time Pro Bowler has racked up 13,684 rushing yards and an astounding second all-time best 145 rushing touchdowns.
Tomlinson will go down as one of the most electric running backs in NFL history. His storied career came with several highlights, a regular season MVP title and professional grace.
L.T. will go down as one of the best there ever was. Now—like several other greats—he should move on and wait for his induction into Canton. Like others on this list and before him, he could easily transition into broadcasting.
A former teammate of LaDanian Tomlinson, Quentin Jammer just didn't seem to be there in 2011. For the first time since his rookie season in 2002, Jammer didn't record a single interception.
Everything seemed to be in decline for Jammer last season.
He recorded his least amount of passes defended (eight) in his career. His tackles have declined for three years in a row now.
He's 32 years old now, and his age has caught up to him. He probably has a few years left in the tank, but if he keeps slipping in play, he'll be forced to hang up the cleats whether he likes it or not.
San Diego's a nice city. Why not enjoy the beach on Sundays?
Thomas Jones has enjoyed a productive career. Despite bouncing around to five different teams and being unable to stick with one for more than three years, he's still put up quality numbers.
He's had 10,591 rushing yards during his 12-year career with one Pro Bowl appearance in 2008.
Jones is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. There's no reason for Kansas City to re-sign Thomas with Jamaal Charles in the fold.
It's hard to imagine a team that would want to pick up the 33-year-old back. The free agency market is deep, and a GM is more likely to take a gamble on a young buck.
Ronde Barber has enjoyed a productive and long career in the NFL. Due to his skill and saavy play, Barber has extended his career farther than most.
That said, he needs to call it quits.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will not be winning a championship in the next year or two, and he has begun to pick up niggly injuries. Similar to veterans in the past as sharp as Barber, his mind and tact for the game is as strong as ever, but his body cannot maintain such high standards of production.
Barber is a five-time Pro Bowler and three-time first team All-Pro.
One of the defensive stalwarts of the past 15 years, Barber has had a Hall of Fame type career. Barber may choose to follow in his brother's post-career endeavors and enter the broadcasting arena.
Joey Porter used to be a name that you would here being mentioned in highlights almost every Sunday or Monday morning. Porter has since declined quite quickly in the last few years.
The Miami Dolphins cut ties with him because he was losing it at a rapid pace.
The former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker never kept up his production after his second year away from the "Steel City." Porter will likely be forced into retirement after this offseason.
Judging by the picture above, he may not want to hear the hard truth.
Hopefully, David Garrard enjoys golf since he's played in the Sunshine State for so long, because he'll be doing a lot of it in his near future.
Garrard was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars prior to last season and failed to find a landing spot. He never delivered his end of the bargain during his time in Jacksonville, and at 34 years old, he's basically lost his shot.
Garrard's best season came in 2009, when he made the Pro Bowl for the first and only time of his career. According to pro-football-reference.com, he had 11 fourth-quarter comebacks and 18 game-winning drives during his seven-year tenure with the Jaguars.
He could bounce around the league for the next two to four years and get paid to hold a clipboard, but what's the point in that?
The man who became infamous for his comical locker-room antics and creative costumes might need to try his humor elsewhere for now on.
Clinton Portis was let go by the Washington Redskins before last season and never recovered. He's considered a "street" free agent at the moment, but will have a hard time finding a roster spot.
Team's are continuing to actively get younger, and Portis does not fit into that profile. He may be able to find a spot as a third down back or a relief back.
Portis ultimately has slowed down from his ferocious intro to the NFL during his time with the Denver Broncos. He earned the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Award and ran for 1,508 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in 2002.
He became an overworked horse in Washington during his time with the Redskins, which ended up catching up with his body. His groin injury was the last straw that is likely the final blow to a player that initially projected to be one of the best in his generation of running backs.
Roy E. Williams became a household name during his time with the Detroit Lions in the mid-2000s. Since then, his career never followed the path many thought it could go after his breakout season in 2006.
Since 2006, his receiving numbers have steadily declined and have leveled off into the 500-yard range. The last two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears, Williams recorded 530 and 507 receiving yards.
There's really no excuse for a guy with his stature to be that average. His transition to Dallas never panned out, and it was not because of Tony Romo. Dez Bryant and Miles Austin can vouch on Romo's behalf.
A change of scenery could a man a lot of good, but his move to the Windy City and back to the NFC North didn't seem to take affect. Williams was supposed to be the No. 1 receiver for the Bears, but couldn't put up numbers that a No. 1 receiver should.
Williams hasn't broke the 600-yard receiving mark since 2007. You know, back before Chicago's latest favorite son took over the White House.
It's about that time for Williams to end his NFL campaign.
This one had me going back and forth.
I truly believe Albert Haynesworth has more left in the tank. Plus, you cannot teach size, and he sure has a lot of it.
I asked a respected friend of mine who loves the NFL just as much as Albert loves cake. He told me the same thing but with a twist: "Big Al still has a lot to give, but he's not there mentally and I'd never want a guy whose heart isn't in it on my team. Ever."
He had a great point, and the pendulum swung to the retirement side. It's time for Big Al to retire and race his boats on Sundays.
He has bounced around to three different teams in the last two years alone. All three had enough and gave the big guy the boot.
In sports, there's not too many things I hate to see more than God-gifted talent and ability wasted. I'm afraid the only chance of Haynesworth reviving his career is moving to Philadelphia and working under his former Tennessee Titans defensive line coach, Jim Washburn.
However, Philadelphia just re-signed Cullen Jenkins to a long-term extension. So, don't count on him being picked up by anyone soon.
I saved this one for last because this one actually hurts to write. Brian "Weapon X" Dawkins is without a doubt my favorite player growing up.
The definition of a true professional, Dawkins brought his lunch pale to work every day. He is a quiet, measured, temperate and a deep man of faith off the field. However, his reckless abandon style of hitting and overwhelming passion helped lead his defenses over the years.
Dawkins was free to walk after the Philadelphia Eagles decided his best years were behind him. He brought veteran leadership to a young Denver Broncos team after he concluded his 13-year career in Philadelphia.
"Weapon X" was Dawkins' nickname due to his ability to transform into what he believed was his alter ego between the lines. In case you're not sure what the heck I'm referring to with Dawkins' alter ego, just watch this video.
Warning: You might have the sudden urge to leave your feet and lay out someone near you after this video.
He's the type of player that can steal the hearts of Philadelphians everywhere, which, by the way, is not an easy task. His passion rubbed off on fans in Denver just as effectively.
Unfortunately, I believe Dawkins cannot maintain his high level of play within a young defense. He's ran into some injury problems in recent years and has been unable to consistently stay healthy.
He could easily become a member of the media or get involved elsewhere. Either way the NFL will lose a great professional, an eight-time Pro Bowler and passionate player within the league if he actually did retire in 2012.
Justin Sparks is an NFL Featured Columnist. Follow him on Twitter for all things NFL and more.
Here's to hoping I'm wrong.