Much of the talk surrounding the Denver Broncos heading into Super Bowl XLVIII is about whether Peyton Manning would retire if he captured his second elusive ring. While that remains unclear, many heads were turned when the Broncos' top cornerback decided to discuss retirement heading into the big game on Feb. 2.
Speaking to the media as part of the weekly round of requirements on Monday, Jan. 27, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie surprised the press scrum by hinting he may ride out into the sunset if Denver wins, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network:
On Jan. 28, Rodgers-Cromartie clarified his statement, as documented by Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com:
Rodgers-Cromartie expanded on those thoughts, via David Meeks of USA Today:
Rodgers-Cromartie says what he wants is to win the Super Bowl and remain with the Broncos.
“Definitely,” he said. “The fans are great, the team is great. The weather is not too friendly, but everything else is great.”
Mike Klis of The Denver Post provided an additional statement from Rodgers-Cromartie on Jan. 29:
“That was misread,” Rodgers-Cromartie said on the swaying Cornucopia Majesty cruise ship Wednesday morning. “I’m definitely not retiring. What I’m saying is when I look at the history of the NFL and these guys that come up with one-year contracts, that’s it for them.
“I’m just talking from personal experience with my good friend Fabian Washington. He’s a guy who can definitely still play in this league. He came out in the first round, made it through his first contract. Then he got a one-year deal and … he’s home. And he still has his speed, he still has his cover speed. He can definitely still play. So you’ve got to think about life outside of football.”
It was easy to take Rodgers-Cromartie facetiously. He is just 27 years old, coming off perhaps the finest season of his career and due to hit unrestricted free agency—a young player's goldmine. But, at least in the moment, he seemed to be making his statement seriously.
Vic Lombardi of CBS4 in Denver even noted Rodgers-Cromartie's desire to become a school guidance counselor:
Looking back at his still-young career, one could understand if Rodgers-Cromartie has had his fair share of the NFL. He walked into a bad situation in Arizona, surprisingly drafted at No. 16 overall despite attending Tennessee State, a small, FCS school that doesn't typically churn out first-round draft choices. DRC managed to pick off 13 passes in three years and showed flashes of a Pro Bowl-caliber player with the Cardinals—right before they shipped him off to Philadelphia in a trade for quarterback Kevin Kolb.
In Philly, Rodgers-Cromartie's career went off the rails a bit. Expected to create the league's best cornerback rotation with Asante Samuel and Nnamdi Asomugha, the Eagles secondary instead became a high-priced albatross. The team let him walk without incident into the free-agent market, where he could only garner a one-year, $5 million contract from Denver.
Like many players on this team, though, Rodgers-Cromartie thrived in the Broncos' culture. He recorded 32 tackles and three interceptions during the regular season while missing only one game, cleaning up mistakes apparent in past stops and emerging as one of the league's best cover corners. Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) coverage snaps per reception metric had Rodgers-Cromartie as the NFL's third-best corner, behind only Richard Sherman and Darrelle Revis.
More than anything, that's why it was always hard to see Rodgers-Cromartie retiring—win or lose. He's a young guy in the middle of his prime. He's about to get paid in a major way, whether that be by the Broncos extending him long term, Denver franchising him or another team swooping in with a long-term offer.
It has to be easy for DRC to think about retiring now, at the end of a long season and on the precipice of perhaps the greatest accomplishment of his career. It's a whole lot more difficult when someone is offering him $20 million guaranteed to put his body through it again—just a couple more times.
These stories coming out of Super Bowl week are fun and will get fodder going.
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