NFL Players Who Should Call It Quits After This Season

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2019

NFL Players Who Should Call It Quits After This Season

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The annual offseason retirement wave always claims some notable NFL names. 

    This past offseason wasn't any different. Rob Gronkowski, Doug Baldwin, Jordy Nelson, Julius Peppers, it goes on and on. Don't forget the seemingly growing trend of shock retirements, too, headlined by Andrew Luck

    And this coming offseason won't be any different. With plenty of notable players getting up there in age, struggling to find work or even suffering big regressions and/or getting replaced by a backup, a similar list should emerge. 

    These are the players who, thanks to a combination of those factors, should probably hang up the cleats this offseason. 

         

Michael Crabtree, WR

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    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Veteran wide receiver Michael Crabtree last popped up with the Arizona Cardinals. 

    The fit there made plenty of sense at the time. Kliff Kingsbury needed another veteran target alongside Larry Fitzgerald to help install his offense around first overall pick Kyler Murray. 

    Arizona released Crabtree on September 23. 

    Crabtree's final tally with the Cardinals was four catches for 22 yards across Weeks 2 and 3 after he was inactive for the season opener. This, on the heels of a one-year stint with Baltimore in which he caught just 54 passes on 100 targets, scoring three times. 

    There was a string of time in Oakland from 2015 to 2017 when he hauled in eight or more scores. For his career, Crabtree has 54 touchdown receptions and 7.499 yards. 

    But by next September, Crabtree will be 33. Another rookie class will join the fray. Even other free-agent wideouts on the wrong side of 30, like Dez Bryant, aren't gaining much traction.

Joe Flacco, QB, Denver Broncos

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Joe Flacco is one of the more recognizable passers to take a serious step back over the past few seasons. 

    Flacco, who will turn 35 in January, mustered only six touchdowns and five interceptions over eight games in his first season with the Denver Broncos before going on injured reserve with a neck injury. 

    At this stage of his career, Flacco might be better off not coming back.

    The Broncos spent a second-round pick on quarterback Drew Lock in April. Flacco has two more years left on his deal, but he has a $23.65 million cap hit in 2020 and a $27.65 million cap hit in 2021.

    As a result, Flacco might not end up being long for the Broncos roster. And since he didn't acclimate well to new surroundings this year, starting over somewhere else might not hold much appeal. 

Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    One can't mention Greg Olsen without Jason Witten

    The Dallas Cowboys tight end was a member of the Monday Night Football broadcast team last year before deciding to return to the game. 

    But that game has begun to pass him by since his time away. The Cowboys continue to cruise with the core of Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliot and Amari Cooper to the point that Witten hasn't breached the 400-yard mark and has failed to score since he had a touchdown catch in each of his first two games. 

    Witten is probably still good for a monster game here and there in a strong matchup, and the veteran presence for a contender shouldn't go understated. 

    But the man has played NFL football since 2003. He's flirting with 13,000 career yards and has 70 touchdowns. He'll be 38 if he plays next season. Another retirement for Witten seems like it could be on the way. 

Darren Sproles, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    Darren Sproles doesn't get nearly enough credit compared to other veteran backs such as Adrian Peterson

    Sproles, after all, is 36 years old and first suited up in 2005. He's got more than 700 carries and 550 catches over the course of his career. 

    He's also had a brutal time staying healthy lately. 

    Sproles has played in three, six and six games over the past three seasons. His latest campaign with the Philadelphia Eagles is over because of a torn right hip flexor

    There is always room in a rotation for a player like Sproles. His staying power speaks to just how talented he is when NFL teams can easily find these role players on an annual basis via the draft. 

    But now feels like a good time for Sproles to walk away as opposed to coming back for his age-37 season. His body has had an increasingly hard time with the rigors of the game, which makes sense given the nature of the position. 

Vernon Davis, TE, Washington Redskins

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Another underrated NFL mainstay for well over a decade, Vernon Davis has held it down at tight end for a few different teams over the course of his career. 

    But 2019 has been a mark against Davis' largely strong attendance record over the years, as he's appeared in just four games with the Washington Redskins in his fourth season with the team. 

    Davis is going on 36 in January and in the final year of his deal, so now seems like the right time to call it a career. This is especially the case if Washington is the only team willing to offer him anything worthwhile on the open market. The Redskins are among the NFL's worst, and the rebuild hasn't shown major signs of progress. 

    While Davis could always go ring-chasing with another team, he hasn't scored more than three touchdowns in a season since 2013. His value as a leader is an immeasurable commodity, but he might have an increasingly difficult time elbowing his way onto a team after another rookie class arrives.  

Danny Amendola, WR, Detroit Lions

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    Danny Amendola extended his career this season via a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions, but it always felt like this was the end of the road. 

    Which isn't to say Amendola can't play anymore. Through nine games with his new team, he had a pair of 100-yard performances with a touchdown. Over those games, however, he had a catch percentage of just 67.2 percent, down from 74.7 the year prior. 

    But a stab at contention late in his career has been dashed with the Lions stuck on three wins and franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford (fractured bones in back) expected to be sidelined for up to six weeks. Amendola will end up facing many of the same challenges as the other guys on the list thanks to free agency and the draft. 

    That he only pulled in a one-year, $4.5 million deal last offseason speaks to some of these challenges he'll face again. Unless an unfathomable spot with a contender opens up, it might be best for him to retire this offseason. 

Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    This one might file as controversial, but Philip Rivers is in an interesting spot. 

    Rivers is in the final year of his deal, he turns 38 in December and is stuck on a franchise that has massively regressed to the tune of a 4-7 record after a 12-win campaign in 2018. 

    As it is, the front office might already be thinking about a rookie signal-caller and passing of the torch. Oh, and Rivers has made it clear in the past he doesn't want to play into his 40s. 

    Maybe Rivers will get the itch to keep playing. But a lot of that might hinge on what the Chargers front office wants to do with its franchise leader in touchdowns, passing yards and quarterback wins. He's thrown for more than 57,000 yards and is closing in on the 400-touchdown mark, but the precipice to a complete falloff is something that might terrify teams. 

    Hints of that are already showing. Through 11 games, Rivers has a 15-to-14 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The picks are stunning considering he maxed out at 12 in the prior two seasons. He had four alone in a Week 11 loss to Kansas City. 

    As he heads to the open market tied to a team that is one of the NFL's biggest disappointments, a transitional period for the Chargers might make Rivers think twice about continuing his illustrious career. Better to quit while he's ahead than slog through a potential legacy-tarnishing downslide. 

Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Eli Manning has handled the transitional period for the New York Giants with class. 

    As another aging quarterback with his best years behind him and no contractual years in front of him, Manning faces a tough choice—try to start over somewhere else at the age of 39 this offseason or fade out of the game entirely. 

    Manning lasted two games into this season, completing 62.9 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and interceptions before the Giants moved on to Daniel Jones. And while the Giants haven't fared much better with the rookie starting (2-6), it wouldn't make much sense to revert and yank the rookie from valuable developmental reps. 

    If Manning chooses to walk away, he'd do so a two-time Super Bowl winner with 56,000-plus yards and 362 passing touchdowns. He'd also arguably do it in a much better state physically than his brother, Peyton, which can't get lost in this conversation. 

    Viewed through that sort of lens, Manning's career arc ending quietly here isn't such a bad thing.