Is Chris Gamble Making a Huge Mistake Walking Away from Football?

Knox Bardeen@knoxbardeenNFC South Lead WriterMarch 11, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 27:  Chris Gamble #20 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates after intercepting a pass during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 27, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The Panthers won 27-19.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Chris Gamble is taking his money and leaving the NFL world.

The Carolina Panthers released the cornerback on Friday in a cost-cutting move that saved the team $7.9 million and thrust it under the salary cap. On Monday, Gamble’s agent Carl Poston told Josina Anderson of ESPN that Gamble was headed for retirement.

In a slant rarely heard, Gamble’s done well with his finances and prepared for the day when football wasn’t an option.

Chris has been a class act. I have represented him for nine years, ever since he came out of Ohio State. He's been an ideal client and he was one of the best corners in game. He's doing it the right way. He has taken care of his money and his investments to retire successfully, and now I wish him the best in his future endeavors.

But is football still an option?

Gamble led or tied for the team lead in interceptions six times during his nine-year stay with the Panthers. At the age of 30—Gamble turned 30 today—there has to be gas left in the tank, right?

According to Poston’s statement to Anderson, there was some serious interest in Gamble going forward:

A number of teams have expressed interest in Chris Gamble. However, Chris informed me last night that he wants to retire. Even though he still loves football, he told me that he's decided to focus on life after football.

The only reason Poston gave for Gamble’s retirement was the pursuit of life after football. No one’s going to argue there. But allow me to toss out a few other ideas:

The Free-Agent Market Is Saturated at Cornerback

When free agency opens at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, 49 cornerbacks will hit that market, and that doesn’t include Gamble—or Dunta Robinson, Leodis McKelvin and William Gay, who have already signed.

Guys like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Brent Grimes, Sean Smith and at least three to four others were going to command more money than Gamble.

It’s quite possible that Gamble wasn’t willing to wait around and see his salary set by those corners ranked higher on the open market. He could have signed before them, but likely would have had to settle for a lesser amount because of all the talent available.

The 2013 season might not have been the best year for Gamble to hit free agency.

Injuries Could Have Taken a Toll

Gamble missed all but four games of the 2012 season after tearing his right labrum. In addition to that shoulder injury, Gamble’s missed time over the past three seasons because of a concussion (2011), an ankle injury (2010) and a hamstring injury (2010).

Gamble was still an incredibly solid cover corner, but how much of his ability was going to be diminished now that he was over the age of 30 and attempting to come back from injury?

Faced with the decision to play for a reduced rate of pay and not for the only team he’d ever known professionally, that could also have been a reason Gamble hung up his cleats.

The News Was Met with Fanfare and Some Disbelief

Former teammates Sherrod Martin and Captain Munnerlyn expressed shock and respect via Twitter after hearing the news.

Twitter blew up with praise for Gamble because he set himself up to be in a position to retire at the age of 30, the American dream accelerated.

But is Gamble making a mistake by not giving football another go?

Probably not.

Gamble surely left some decent money on the table, but because of his shoulder injury last year and the laundry list of ailments prior, he wasn’t going to get the money his skill set should have demanded.

You’ll notice that Gamble’s agent said a number of things about Gamble’s financial prowess, his love for the game and his rank among the best corners in the game. But Poston never said Gamble was going out on his own terms. That’s just not the case.

If Gamble was completely healthy, he would be one of the most sought-after corners in free agency. In fact instead of releasing him, the Panthers might have found a way to restructure his deal. But that’s not the case.

Gamble is making the best of his current situation, and he must feel that the world outside of the NFL offers him more opportunities than pads and a jersey do going forward. That said, Gamble is making the right choice.

Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and statements were obtained firsthand.

Knox Bardeen is the NFC South lead writer for Bleacher Report and the author of “100 Things Falcons Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die.” Be sure to follow Knox on Twitter.


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