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Time To Hang It Up: Five NFL Players That Should Retire Before The Season

Julio Jones - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

NFL athletes are some of the most competitive in the world. Unfortunately, these finely-tuned physical specimens don't always realize when their bodies have had enough punishment.

While each of the players on this list could still have some interest from teams next season, none of them are great contributors like they were early in their careers. Everyone on this list has been to at least three Pro Bowls and was at least a borderline superstar, so it's far from an easy decision to call it a career. That said, perhaps it's time for these proven players to "Hang It Up".

There are some players - like Aaron Rodgers - who perhaps did consider retirement this offseason, but while the future Hall-of-Fame signal-caller had a tough 2022 season, he is at least still good enough to be a starter in the NFL, and will now attempt to recharge his career with a new team. That said, this list will focus on more obvious choices for retirement.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!


#1. Julio Jones, WR, Age 33

2022 Stats: 10 games, 43 targets, 24 receptions, 299 receiving yards, two touchdowns

Jones is a seven-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro selection, and two-time receiving yards leader. However, injuries and age have caught up to the former star Atlanta Falcons wide receiver, as he's played in just 29 of 50 possible games over the last three seasons on three different teams. In the NFC Wild Card game against the Dallas Cowboys, Jones caught seven passes for 74 yards and a touchdown, but he rarely has that kind of performance at age 33.

Just since 2019, Jones has missed games with foot, hip, ankle, hamstring, shoulder, and knee injuries. A big explosive receiver like Jones usually doesn't play well into their mid-to-late 30s, as a decline in athleticism and durability mightily affects their game.

Jones is a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer, but since he's failed to reach 450 receiving yards in each of the past two seasons, it's probably time to retire. That said, he could wait to see which teams are contenders and sign with a team late in the 2023 season, but his body can no longer handle a long, grueling season.


#2. DeSean Jackson, WR, Age 36

2022 Stats: Seven games, 17 targets, nine receptions, 153 receiving yards, zero touchdowns

Jackson has not played a full season since 2013 as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles and hasn't played in more than nine games since the 2018 season. While he's still shown explosiveness while active, ankle and hamstring issues have caused him to miss a ton of game action. The Baltimore Ravens brought D-Jax in after several key injuries to their already weak wide receiver room, but Jackson failed to finish the season once again.

The three-time Pro Bowler was once one of the elite deep threat and YAC players at the position, and admittedly, it's impressive that he can still fly while active at age 36. All that said, time has probably run out on the 15-year NFL veteran from the University of California.


#3. A.J. Green, WR, Age 34

Note: Green officially announced retirement on Feb 6, 2023

2022 Stats: 13 games, 47 targets, 24 receptions, 236 receiving yards, two touchdowns

Many football fans forget just how good Green was in his prime. The fourth overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft posted at least 1,000 receiving yards in six of his first seven seasons as a Cincinnati Bengal. He missed out on 1,000 yards in his sixth season, but still posted 964 yards in just 10 games. Still, he made the Pro Bowl in each of his first seven years and was right in the thick of the "best receiver in the NFL" discussion.

However, Green missed the entire 2019 season with an injury and was a shell of his former self in his last season with Cincinnati. Sharing the field with a rookie Tee Higgins, Green caught just 47 passes for 423 yards and two touchdowns. After that season, the Bengals moved on from him and moved forward with Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase.

In his first season in Arizona, he posted over 800 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 16 games played but regressed mightily in 2022. Ultimately, Green has proven everything he needs to and isn't quite the player he once was, so this offseason could be the time he exits stage left.


#4. Matt Ryan, QB, Age 37

2022 Stats: 12 games, 3,057 passing yards, 14 passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 15 fumbles

Until the 2022 season, Ryan was the unquestioned leader and franchise quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons. While he regressed in his last couple of outings in Atlanta, most NFL fans chalked it up to the poor situation he was in on a rebuilding franchise that never quite got past its crushing Super Bowl loss in 2016.

However, Ryan has clearly taken a step back and needs a lot of things to go right in order to be effective. In an offense with a struggling offensive line and banged-up Jonathan Taylor, Ryan went 4-7-1 as the Colts' starter, posting a career low in touchdown passes. Ultimately, his pass-catching 0ptions and pass protection were clearly subpar, but a franchise and star quarterback is supposed to be able to make up for some of those things.

Ryan looked as slow as ever and never looked comfortable and poised in an Indianapolis uniform. While Tom Brady has made it seem like any quarterback can play into their mid-40s, that's simply not the case. If Ryan was unable to get it done in one of the weakest divisions in football, can we expect him to be successful anywhere at this point in his career? It's highly unlikely, and Ryan should consider calling it quits.


#5. Mark Ingram II, RB, Age 33

2022 Stats: 10 games, 62 rushing attempts, 233 rushing yards, 16 receptions, 68 receiving yards, one total touchdown

Ingram has lasted a long time as a running back in the NFL, but 2022 should arguably be the final chapter of his career. He was once a stud ball carrier while playing next to Alvin Kamara in New Orleans or Gus Edwards in Baltimore, but he's nothing more than a short-yardage back with minimal big-play upside at age 33.

As a member of the Ravens, Saints, and Texans over the last three seasons, Ingram has failed to reach 600 rushing yards in a season. In Week 13 of the 2022 season, he suffered a torn MCL after just 78 touches on the year, which is not a good sign for things to come if he decides to give it another go.

While Frank Gore played until he was 37 years old, he posted a 1,000-yard season at age 33 and a 722-yard season (4.6 YPC) at age 35. Gore had rare durability and juice late into his career, while Ingram does not. The three-time Pro Bowler and former Heisman winner has squeezed all the productivity out of his career, and it's time to let it go.

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