Hawkins went public with the news with the following video for UNINTERRUPTED:
The veteran wideout had signed with the Pats during the offseason after spending the previous three seasons with the Cleveland Browns.
In the video, Hawkins said the decision was difficult, but that he made it after he felt his body breaking down and not responding in the same way it once did. He also noted he has some business opportunities on the horizon and is planning to start work on a Ph.D. in business and economics next year.
Hawkins registered 33 receptions for 324 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games last season after putting up just 276 yards in eight games during the 2015 campaign.
His most productive season came in 2014, which was his first year with the Browns after spending the first three seasons of his career with the Cincinnati Bengals.
In 2014, Hawkins set career highs with 63 receptions for 824 yards, and he also reeled in two touchdowns.
The former undrafted free-agent signing out of Toledo will retire with career totals of 209 grabs for 2,419 yards and nine touchdowns.
New England still has a great deal of wide receiver depth even after Hawkins' retirement with Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola and Malcolm Mitchell in the fold.