Last year’s all-retirement team was loaded. Peyton Manning. Calvin Johnson. Marshawn Lynch. Nobody’s touching that offense.
But the 2017 squad of retirees from the calendar year stands on its own Pro Bowl pedigree.
Veteran CB Flowers says he is retiring from NFL
Brandon Flowers posted on Instagram that he retiring from the NFL after nine seasons with the Chiefs and Chargers.
Wilfork tweets grilling ad to declare retirement
Vince Wilfork declared his retirement via Twitter, saying he would hold a “farewell tailgate” before the Patriots open the regular season Sept. 7.
This stout 26-man roster includes at least three compelling Hall of Fame cases, plenty of Patriots (welcome, Vince Wilfork!) and Cowboys and even one repeat appearance.
The lack of a third cornerback hurts, but maybe Darrelle Revis can still help with that.
From health concerns to lack of attractive job offers, veterans have their reasons for walking away. But their play should be celebrated.
Let’s have at it.
Quarterback: Tony Romo
Romo over Jay Cutler would have been an easy call. But it was a difficult decision between the longtime Cowboys QB and Michael Vick, who officially called it quits in May. Romo was a top-10 quarterback at his peak, top-15 on his worst day. Vick’s passing held him back. In this offense, Romo has targets and good protection. Feels like Dallas again.
Running back: Justin Forsett
OK, so Forsett’s last good season was 2014. But he was really good that year with 1,266 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Ravens. Maybe he’s got some shifty speed left to elevate this ground game. And he has help.
Hybrid playmaker: Percy Harvin
The once-breathtaking athlete can line up in the backfield, in the slot or on the outside. Harvin made an appearance on last year’s team but re-signed with the Bills for a brief stint. He’s done now. And when he was on, not many were better.
Tight end: Jordan Cameron
Cameron looked like a budding star in Cleveland after catching 80 passes for 917 yards in 2013. He was serviceable over the next two seasons, but concussions forced him out of the game after six years in the league. Cameron’s athleticism and size make him a worthy candidate.
Offensive lineman: Doug Free
Free was underrated along the Cowboys’ vaunted offensive line, rarely missing a game in seven-plus seasons as a full-time starter. Free is one of three former Cowboys on this list. The offensive line has at least 10 capable retirees, but Free deserves one of five spots. Gosder Cherilus backs him up.
Offensive lineman: King Dunlap
Dunlap had a good run, starting 65 games over eight years and protecting Philip Rivers in San Diego over the last four. Dunlap wasn’t a perennial Pro Bowler but certainly was capable.
Offensive lineman: Sebastian Vollmer
The big German spent eight seasons with the Patriots and was a part of two Super Bowls, though he was injured in 2016, his final year. The 33-year-old and former second-team All-Pro slides into a guard spot for this squad. His backup is Kory Lichtensteiger.
Offensive lineman: Chris Chester
With Branden Albert waffling on his retirement, according to the NFL Network, Chester slides into this role nicely because of his steady line play. Chester was among the most durable guards in the league, starting 143 games over his 11-year career, with no games missed since 2011. Chester played for the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins and Baltimore Ravens.
Offensive lineman: Jake Long
The 2008 No. 1 pick was ravaged by injuries, but he made four consecutive Pro Bowls from 2008 to 2011 and should be remembered for his productive days with the Dolphins. Geoff Schwartz is Long’s No. 2.
Wide receiver: Roddy White
So what if he’s 35 and didn’t have a job in 2016? Let’s remember the player who posted 10,863 yards and 63 touchdowns for the Falcons. White officially retired in April after not playing in 2016. Andrew Hawkins is his backup.
Wide receiver: Andre Johnson
One of a few players on this list who will push for a gold jacket, Johnson ranks 11th all time with 14,185 receiving yards. In his prime, Johnson was easily a top-three receiver in the modern game despite limited quarterback help. Now he’s got Romo, and Lance Moore as his backup.
Defensive end: DeMarcus Ware
The second Hall of Famer on the list, Ware collected 138.5 sacks as an outside linebacker or defensive end. We’re short on linemen, so he’s an end on this team. Either way, he’s a threat for sacks each week. Ware was a rare dominant force from anywhere on the field, especially as a Cowboy.
Defensive tackle: Vince Wilfork
Five Pro Bowls, one All-Pro, 16 sacks … but how many double-teams did he pile up? Wilfork’s presence as a Patriots great and the ultimate lane clogger could give him a compelling Hall of Fame case. He reimagined the nose tackle position. Plus, Monday’s well-seasoned retirement video alone is worthy of a spot on this team.
Defensive tackle: Terrance Knighton
In seven seasons, Knighton was best known as the “Pot Roast” stopping the run for the contending Denver Broncos in 2013-14. His career fizzled a bit after that, but the 354-pounder always played to his strength of clogging the middle. Knighton’s size provides flexibility for this defensive scheme.
Defensive end/linebacker: Rob Ninkovich
Sure, Ninkovich is not a true lineman, but, at 260 pounds, he could play a few snaps there to help this team set the edge. After all, the pure Patriot did a little bit of everything over 11 seasons, collecting 460 tackles, 46 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and 5 interceptions.
Linebacker: James Laurinaitis
Laurinaitis was the classic middle linebacker, making checks for the defense and racking up 100-tackle seasons for the now-Los Angeles Rams. Jeff Fisher’s teams in St. Louis weren’t successful, but they were tough, and Laurinaitis was a big part of that. His backup: Zach Orr, who is trying to get a job but is retired for now.
Linebacker: Chad Greenway
Greenway’s career was sneaky good. He’s the rare defensive player who goes out on his own terms — as a starter for the team that drafted him in the first round. With 1,101 career tackles, Greenway nearly cracked the NFL’s top 20 all time. He was a prominent face for that Vikings defense for a long stretch.
Linebacker: A.J. Hawk/Stephen Tulloch
Since we can’t break the tie, both will play depending on the package. Hawk is part of the 900-20-30 club (at least 900 tackles, 20 sacks and 30 passes defended) as a key cog in the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV win. Tulloch ground out 11 seasons, six of which included 100 or more tackles.
Defensive back: Antrel Rolle
The secondary is a bit light, but luckily Rolle announced his retirement in November, nearly four months after ESPN’s 2016 all-retirement team posted. He’s eligible! Rolle, an 11-year veteran safety, brings the pedigree of a three-time Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl champion with the Giants.
Defensive back: Brandon Flowers
Flowers was a late addition to the retirement list, as reported by NFL Network and confirmed by ESPN. The 31-year-old had considered retirement for months after concussion issues in 2016. Flowers’ aggressive coverage skills — 110 pass deflections and 21 interceptions in nine seasons — earned him a Pro Bowl selection in 2013. He was a playmaker with the ball, too, converting four interceptions for touchdowns. Defensive back Daimion Stafford, who skipped Steelers camp while mulling retirement, is the backup.
Defensive back: Jerraud Powers
Like Flowers, Powers had a knack for the ball, posting 74 passes defended and 13 interceptions in eight seasons with the Colts, Cardinals and Ravens. He’s one of only two pure corners on this team, so let’s hope he’s still healthy.
Defensive back: David Bruton Jr.
Bruton retired this month, citing concussion concerns. The safety left behind an eight-season résumé that included 190 tackles, five forced fumbles and key contributions to the Broncos’ Super Bowl run after the 2015 season.
Kicker: Josh Scobee
The 12-year veteran will retire with the Jaguars, which is fitting after he spent 11 seasons making 80 percent of his kicks for them. Scobee was a high-level scorer before the disastrous Pittsburgh trade happened. That doesn’t diminish his solid career.
Return specialist: Josh Cribbs
Cribbs was done playing in 2014 but officially retired this offseason. He wanted one more chance at the field, but he did enough damage without that chance, including 11 career touchdowns on kickoff or punt returns. In the late 2000s, not many were better than Cribbs as a Cleveland Brown.
Punter: Pat McAfee
Before becoming a media personality with Barstool Sports, McAfee was a quality punter with personality plus. After eight seasons, McAfee punted 23,048 net yards for the Colts. Nearly 200 of his 575 attempts landed inside the 20.