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Time To Hang It Up: Five NFL Wide Receivers Near Retirement

The wide receiver position in the NFL demands speed, agility, and physicality. However, as the years go by, even the most talented receivers face the reality that their bodies may not be able to keep up with the physical demands of the game. Unfortunately, these competitive athletes don't always know when it's time to hang it up.

While there have been vast improvements made in lengthening players' careers, the wide receiver position can still inflict lots of wear and tear on even the best of the best. As you'll see in this article, some of the greatest receivers of the past decade are still trying to hang on to their playing days.

With the salary market for wide receivers exploding in recent years, many wideouts now have the incentive to stay in the game for as long as possible. That said, there are some vets that have seen their production dramatically decline over the last few seasons. Let's discuss five wide receivers that should hang it up now that the 2022 season has ended.

Be sure to check all of our fantasy football rankings for 2024 fantasy football drafts:

 

#5. Robert Woods, Age 30

2022 Stats: 17 Games, 53 Receptions, 527 Receiving Yards, 2 TDs

The 30-year-old has put forth a sterling career across his 10 NFL seasons. Woods' 7,604 career receiving yards ranks 15th among active players. Through his first nine seasons as a pro, the man they call "Bobby Trees" averaged 63 receptions per year, posting 12.4 yards per reception. After starting his career with the Buffalo Bills as a second-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft out of USC, Woods produced his best numbers after joining the Los Angeles Rams in 2017.

Across five campaigns with the Rams, he twice topped 1,000 receiving yards in a season and reeled in 85 or more receptions in three separate seasons. Woods was a pivotal piece of L.A.'s resurgence in recent years that eventually led to a Super Bowl title in 2021.

Unfortunately, Woods wasn't actually on the field for the Rams when they won the Lombardi Trophy, as the vet suffered a torn ACL prior to Week 10 of the '21 season. After winning the title with Woods on the sideline, L.A. shipped him to a Tennessee Titans squad that was looking to fill the void left by the departed A.J. Brown.

His first season in Nashville was a disappointment by almost any measure, as Woods logged career lows in total receiving yards (527) and yards per reception (9.9), while he found the end zone just twice in 2022. Although he restructured his contract when he was traded to the Titans, Woods was recently cut by the cash-strapped Tennessee franchise and signed a new deal with the Houston Texans.

#4. Randall Cobb, Age 33

2022 Stats: 13 Games, 34 Receptions, 417 Receiving Yards, 1 TD

Once a dynamic, swiss-army-knife player, Randall Cobb has been plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness in recent years. The 33-year-old last appeared in more than 14 games in 2019.

After being selected by the Green Bay Packers in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft, Cobb logged a true breakout campaign in his second season as a pro, amassing 954 receiving yards and eight TDs on 80 receptions, while also proving himself to be a threat on the ground with 132 rushing yards. During his first eight seasons with the Pack, Cobb topped 600 receiving yards in a season five times.

After departing Green Bay following eight productive seasons, the veteran spent a single, but productive, season with the Dallas Cowboys in 2019, before landing with the Houston Texans in 2020, where he spent a single, unproductive year and appeared in only 10 games.

A return to Green Bay and a reunion with Aaron Rodgers in 2021 offered promise for a career renaissance, but Cobb has started just six games across two seasons during his second tour of duty with the Packers. The 32-year-old recorded just one TD reception and a mere 417 yards in 2022.

#3. Sammy Watkins, Age 29

2022 Stats: 12 Games, 16 Receptions, 325 Receiving Yards, 0 TDs

Sammy Watkins is the youngest wide receiver on our list at 29-years-old. Though he's yet to hit 30, the once-electric receiver has battled injuries throughout his career, a trend that began prior to the start of his third professional season in 2016 when a broken bone in his foot required surgery and the insertion of a screw.

Watkins never appeared to regain the explosiveness he had showcased in his first two NFL seasons with the Buffalo Bills. After posting 2,029 receiving yards and 16 TDs across his first two years in the league, the Clemson product would never again log more than 675 receiving yards in a single season.

After flashing signs of a potential career resurgence during a single season with the Los Angeles Rams in 2017, Watkins devolved into a role receiver after joining the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018. Constantly battling injuries, he appeared in a total of 34 games across his three seasons in KC.

The now-29-year-old has spent the last two seasons as a true journeyman, spending the 2021 season as a limited contributor for the Baltimore Ravens before signing a one-year deal with the Green Bay Packers ahead of the 2022 season, only to be released in December after a stint on Injured Reserve and returning to Baltimore for a second stint with the Ravens.

 

#2. DeSean Jackson, Age 36

2022 Stats: 7 Games, 9 Receptions, 153 Receiving Yards, 0 TDs

You are forgiven if you thought that DeSean Jackson was already retired, as the diminutive speedster made only spot appearances across seven games for the Baltimore Ravens this season, reeling in a whopping nine catches for 17 yards.

One of the most prolific speedsters in recent memory, Jackson's impressive 11,263 career receiving yards rank him third among active NFL players. While Jackson still looked plenty fast in his limited 2022 action, his small, 5'10", 175lbs. frame simply might not be able to take the beating that professional football requires anymore, as his biggest problem has been staying on the field in recent years.

Jackson has been severely limited by injuries during the golden years of his career. Over his last four seasons, he's managed to log just 643 total snaps of game action, while suiting up with four different teams. Though the 36-year-old obviously still loves the game - and could likely be a contributor for a team if he were able to stay healthy - it appears as though his body refuses to cooperate.

 

#1. Julio Jones, Age 34

2022 Stats: 10 Games, 24 Receptions, 299 Receiving Yards, 2 TDs

With all due respect to the future Hall of Famer, Julio Jones has done nothing to help his legacy over the last two seasons. Since the longtime Falcon departed Atlanta in 2021, he's failed to play more than 10 games or score more than two TDs in one-year stints with the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Bucs. It's a far cry from the phenomenal ability he's displayed throughout a career in which he's amassed 13,629 receiving yards and 903 receptions, marks that lead all active NFL players in each category.

After appearing in just nine games in his final season with the Falcons in 2020, Jones was a non-factor for the Titans in 2021, tallying a mere 434 receiving yards and a single TD during his one-year stay in Music City.

Jones decided to team up with Tom Brady in Tampa for the 2022 season, though hopes of a career renaissance were quickly dashed after a promising start to the season that saw the former superstar post 69 yards on five catches in his Bucs debut. The 34-year-old would appear in just one of Tampa Bay's next six games and never topped the 69 receiving yards he recorded in Week 1.

He finished the 2022 campaign with career lows in receptions (24), receiving yards (299), and yards per reception (12.5). An impending free agent in 2023, the seven-time Pro Bowler enters the offseason with a grim outlook surrounding his future playing prospects.



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