NFL Stars Most Likely to Hang It Up After the 2020 Season

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2020

NFL Stars Most Likely to Hang It Up After the 2020 Season

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The NFL could experience a flurry of major retirement news this offseason.

    At least one player has already removed himself from the running, with Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger planning on returning for an 18th season, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    But an element of surprise has entered retirement conversations in recent years, with Andrew Luck and Luke Kuechly serving as notable examples.

    For the players most likely to retire listed below, we'll dial in on variables such as age, waning production and team direction. They're the biggest names by far, and some have considered hanging up the cleats in the past.

Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees hasn't said he will retire after the 2020 season...but he's got a broadcasting gig already lined up. Schefter also reported in September that Brees told the Saints he planned to retire last offseason before changing his mind.

    So it's only a matter of time, not that it has shown much on the field. He might be 41 years old, but he's completed 70.5 percent of his passes with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions over 10 games.

    The Saints have laid the groundwork for Brees' departure too, rolling the dice on Jameis Winston and keeping Taysom Hill involved. Either could be a long-term option if Brees retires and his $36.2 million cap hit in 2021 is a non-factor.

    Granted, how the 10-4 Saints fare in the playoffs could spark something that pushes Brees one way or another. The team surely wouldn't complain if he came back for Year 21. But for onlookers, it's important to enjoy these final few games.

Frank Gore, RB, New York Jets

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Frank Gore has popped up on lists like this for the better part of eight years because it's only natural to combine age, workload and the nature of the running back position and come to one conclusion.

    But Gore just keeps on going.

    He is 37 years old and the leading rusher for the rudderless New York Jets. His numbers aren't eye-popping, but his effort is. Through 14 games, he's rushed for 605 yards and two touchdowns on 3.5 yards per carry.

    Since his rookie campaign in 2005, Gore has appeared in at least 14 games in 15 of 16 years. He is with his fifth team and should eclipse the 16,000-yard mark before the season is over.

    Gore is reason enough to watch a Jets game in the next two weeks.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Like Gore, Arizona Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald has been a point of retirement speculation for a long time.

    Now 37 years old, Fitzgerald said no thanks to hanging up the cleats this past offseason after seemingly considering it. And he's helped the improving 8-6 Cardinals as Kyler Murray settles in behind center.

    Fitzgerald is third on the team in receiving with 48 catches on 64 targets for 381 yards and a score. He's been instrumental in not only helping along the wideout room now led by DeAndre Hopkins but also in being rock-solid for Murray with a solid 1.6 drop percentage.

    There's an outside chance the competitive upswing of the Cardinals convinces Fitzgerald to stick around, but he is playing on a one-year contract extension, and most would understand if the final two regular-season games and any playoff contests served as a farewell tour.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Miami Dolphins

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    Doug Murray/Associated Press

    Ryan Fitzpatrick has blossomed into a star in the twilight of his career.

    Fitzpatrick was viewed as a placeholder for the Miami Dolphins this year while Tua Tagovailoa got ready, yet he went 4-3 as a starter and completed 68.5 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

    One of the league's best backups and spot starters, Fitzpatrick is 38 years old, and his ability to tough it out with eight different teams is admirable.

    Fitzpatrick said he considered retirement last offseason, and it will surely be on the table again with Miami squarely on Tagovailoa's shoulders now.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Detroit Lions

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    Could two modern running back legends hang it up in the same offseason?

    The Detroit Lions' Adrian Peterson has accompanied Gore on many of these lists, and rightfully so. He's 35 and finishing his first season with Detroit after latching on to play a mentor role to rookie D'Andre Swift.

    Along the way, Peterson has received a team-high 145 carries, which he's turned into 531 yards and six scores on 3.7 yards per carry. He's at 14,747 yards and 117 touchdowns and will presumably get plenty of work over the final two games for the five-win team.

    It's hard to say whether a team will want Peterson in a similar role next year. But since he was cut by Washington in September, it would make sense if this were goodbye.

Philip Rivers, QB, Indianapolis Colts

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    It would have been understandable if Philip Rivers decided to hang up his cleats this past offseason with he and the Los Angeles Chargers going in different directions.

    Instead, Rivers entered free agency and landed with a potential contender in the Indianapolis Colts. Over 14 games, he's captained the Colts to a 10-4 record by way of a 68.7 completion percentage with 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

    Rivers has accumulated 63,006 passing yards with 419 touchdowns and 207 interceptions, though it might be more impressive if the Colts qualify for the postseason.

    No matter what happens down the stretch, Rivers is on a one-year deal and already has a post-playing-career high school coaching job lined up. At 39 years old, it seems like the right time for Rivers to retire.