The NFL is a rough place to make a living. This is why each year some of the league’s most notable names ride off into the sunset with a sack full of cash to give their frames time to heal before getting on with the rest of their lives.
Let’s take a look at who is most likely to check out at the end of the current year.
#5 Antonio Gates- San Diego Chargers
Gates’ impact on the game cannot be denied. In the vein of another Chargers tight end, Kellen Winslow, Gates often made his quarterback Phillip Rivers look incredible.
The past three years have seen the former basketball star rack up multiple injuries which have crushed his production.
As San Diego prepares to uproot for new digs in Los Angeles, its quite possible that Gates will retire.
He told the San Diego Union Tribune that he could be back for 15th season in 2017.
“This is not the way I expected to be done. I’m definitely leaning toward coming back.”
With a ugly finish to a ugly year, its understandable as to why Gates has a sour taste in his mouth. There is also the matter of securing a few NFL records that are within his reach.
Still, its not a wise move to bet on the big fella suiting up again with the Hall of Fame looming over the horizon.
Chances Of Return: 60/40 In Favor Of Returning
#4 Frank Gore –Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have to go young and in a hurry. With Miami Hurricanes legend Frank Gore hanging out in the backfield at 34-years-old, the end could be over the horizon.
Gore at times has been really productive but the stress of being a NFL running back has worn him down and he is clearly missing a step.
The Colts missed the playoffs again and with Andrew Luck under center making mega millions, something is going to change.
Gore has yet to publicly comment on the possibility but it has to be weighing heavy on his mind.
Chances of Return: 50/50
#3 Earl Thomas –Seattle Seahawks
When Thomas broke his leg during the Seahawks savage beat down of the Carolina Panthers, he emotionally hopped on social media and stated that he might retire.
No one took him seriously until the free safety went on the Rich Eisen Podcast two weeks later and restated that he could indeed hang up the cleats.
“Yeah, I’m kind of enjoying just waking up in the mornings without the pressure. Peace is starting to return to me, bro, and I think that’s my ultimate goal in life. I just want to have peace,” the safety told Eisen. “But I can say when I went back to the VMAC (Seahawks facility) the other day, my competitive juices came right back. I don’t know, man. I’m kind of caught in between right now.
Since that statement Thomas has backpedaled a little but to say he would probably return in 2017 for at least another season.
Chances Of Returning: 80/20 In Favor Of Coming Back
Larry Fitzgerald-Arizona Cardinals
After a complete bummer of a season, the team’s all-time great, will probably call it a day.
The team’s recent separation of Fitzgerald’s young prodigy Michael Floyd most likely was the last straw.
Fitz has ridden the Arizona rollercoaster for his entire career and at 33-years-old, he has head coach Bruce Arians ready to beg him for another year.
Arians told Sirius Radio that “it’s going to take me to talk Larry into coming back, which is hopefully not too hard.”
He went on to state that Fitzgerald is still mulling his options.
“I don’t think he even knows,” Arians said. “Larry is one of those guys who plays week to week. He plays as hard and passionate as everyone.
“I know he’s still got passion. He loves to be with these guys. When you lead the league in receiving, hopefully you want to come back one more time.”
Chances Of Returning: 70/30 In Favor Of Retirement
Steve Smith Sr.-Baltimore Ravens
The tiny mouth that roared should have stepped away last season but injury forced him to return for one more run to prove that he still had “it.”
Now that the Ravens are out of the playoffs, Steve Smith Sr. is ready to go home and enjoy some home cooked meals.
Smith Sr. started his career with the Carolina Panthers and will end it facing the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
He told reporters that it’s time to wrap it up.
“Football is a conduit. It’s a platform, good and bad, but it gives you an opportunity,’ Smith said. “Football’s given me probably more than I probably could give football back. For 2016-17 and beyond, it is probably my last game.”
Chances Of Returning: 0
Five Other NFL Stars That Could Say Goodbye
Carson Palmer-Arizona Cardinals
Tony Romo –Dallas Cowboys
Jamaal Charles-Kansas City Chiefs
Demarcus Ware-Denver Broncos
Anquan Boldin-Detroit Lions