2018 NFL All-Retirement team: Revis, Witten lead all-star squad
Editor’s note: This story has been updated after Darrelle Revis announced his retirement.
ESPN’s All-Retirement team is back for its third installment — a 23-man lineup of players who called it quits this offseason.
The squad is once again stocked with Hall of Fame pedigrees, All-Pros and Pro Bowlers, many of whom left the game with dignity intact. Fifteen of the 23 logged at least a decade despite a leaguewide push for younger and cheaper options through the draft.
There’s not a lot of depth on the defensive line and at wide receiver, but this roster could win some games in 2018.
Let’s get to it.
Quarterback: Carson Palmer
Palmer follows all-retirement alumni Peyton Manning and Tony Romo as accomplished signal-callers who battled injuries in their mid-30s. His 294 touchdowns and 46,247 passing yards over 14 seasons might not be enough for the Hall of Fame, but his moments of brilliance shouldn’t be overlooked — most notably, his air-it-out work late in his career with Bruce Arians in Arizona.
Running back: Matt Forte
A hybrid tailback/receiver before it was trendy, Forte announced his retirement after 10 seasons. From 2007-17, no offensive player compiled more yards from scrimmage than Forte’s 14,468, per NFL research. He never played fewer than 12 games in a season despite dealing with several injuries and fumbled 22 times over his career. A natural all-retirement star.
Running back: DeMarco Murray
Two-back sets with Murray and Forte will be fierce. Last week, the three-time Pro Bowler announced on ESPN that “it’s time for me to hang it up” after seven seasons. Murray was elite in 2014, slicing through defenses for 1,845 yards behind the Dallas Cowboys‘ offensive line.
Offensive tackle: Joe Thomas
Scientists made the perfect left tackle in a football laboratory and Joe Thomas came out. His quick feet, textbook hand usage and the durability to never miss a snap for 11 seasons make him a Hall of Fame lock and a bright spot in a dim Cleveland Browns era.
Guard: Richie Incognito
A bizarre career marred by a bullying scandal in Miami turned positive in Buffalo, where Incognito made Pro Bowls from 2015-17. The mauling guard played 12 seasons and beats out Joe Berger for one of the two guard spots. Incognito reportedly retired over liver and kidney issues.
Backup: Joe Berger. He overcame journeyman status as a reliable starter in Minnesota.
Center: Nick Mangold
One of the best centers of his generation started 164 games, made two All-Pro teams and helped keep the New York Jets‘ offensive line respectable through some lean years. Mangold was out of football for a year before announcing his retirement this offseason.
Guard: Eric Wood
Wood played most of his career at center but slides to guard because of Mangold’s presence. The long-productive Bill was forced into retirement because of a severe neck injury discovered in his season-ending physical. That doesn’t discount a football pedigree that includes 120 starts and one Pro Bowl.
Offensive tackle: Zach Strief
Strief and Orlando Franklin battled for starting honors here, but Strief’s career spanned five more years, he was routinely a Pro Football Focus favorite and a steady presence during the New Orleans Saints‘ uneven years. Drew Brees loved the guy.
Backup: Orlando Franklin. He played seven seasons and made it to one Super Bowl.
Tight end: Jason Witten
The all-retirement team is short on playmakers, but Witten provides a much-needed boost. After 15 years as a fixture in Dallas, Witten is the third- or fourth-best tight end of his generation behind Tony Gonzalez, Rob Gronkowski and possibly Antonio Gates. Witten started every game since 2007 and never caught fewer than 63 passes since winning the Cowboys’ full-time job in 2004.
Wide receiver: Vincent Jackson
Jackson hadn’t played since October 2016 because of a knee injury before quietly retiring this offseason. After 12 NFL seasons and 57 touchdowns, Jackson will always be known for his big-play ability. He and DeSean Jackson (no relation) were the only two players whose careers began in the 2000s to catch at least 500 passes and average at least 16 yards per catch.
Wide receiver: Rodney Adams
Adams will have to make his first NFL catch on the all-retirement team. Yeah, we’re a bit short here. The Minnesota Vikings waived their 2017 fifth-round pick last October and placed him on the practice squad. This offseason, he signed a futures contract with the Indianapolis Colts before announcing his surprising retirement in April.
Defensive end: Dwight Freeney
Somewhere, Freeney is still spinning into a backfield near you. Freeney is tied with Terrell Suggs for 17th on the all-time sacks list with 125.5. Perhaps most impressive is his late-30s productivity as a specialist. From 2015-17, he totaled 14 sacks on limited snaps with the Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks.
Defensive end: Da’Quan Bowers
Bowers officially announced his retirement this offseason despite not having played in the NFL since 2015. The 2011 second-round pick last played in the Canadian Football League but finished with 69 tackles and seven sacks in his NFL career. Bowers gets the nod over undrafted free agent Lowell Lotulelei for a defensive-line spot.
Linebacker: Paul Posluszny
The 11-year veteran was so respected in Jacksonville’s locker room that teammate Telvin Smith cried at Posluszny’s retirement news conference. Posluszny put together a complete career, with 881 tackles, 16 sacks and 15 interceptions, helping the Jaguars out of a losing albatross in 2017.
Linebacker: James Harrison
The NFL’s strongest man nearly stretched his career to 40, but ended it after last season’s Super Bowl push with the New England Patriots. A messy divorce with the Pittsburgh Steelers doesn’t discount his work in the black and gold as the franchise sacks leader. Plus, his wondrous workout videos on Instagram are still readily available for all to see.
Linebacker: Jerrell Freeman
Freeman played six NFL seasons before announcing his retirement in May to focus on “health and family.” After three years in the CFL, the Colts gave him a chance and he responded with 145 tackles in 2012. Drug suspensions tainted his stint with the Chicago Bears.
Linebacker: David Harris
Nicknamed “The Hitman,” Harris did a little of everything before ending his 11-year NFL run this offseason. He came swiftly off the edge or up the middle for 36.5 career sacks, logged an exhausting 1,109 tackles and was a locker room leader for the New York Jets.
Cornerback: Antonio Cromartie
Cromartie never became the game’s best cornerback, but he lived up to his first-round billing over 11 seasons. It’s hard to argue with 31 interceptions and 116 pass deflections. Life beyond the game has included a reality show tackling his life as a father of 14.
Safety: Kam Chancellor
One of the game’s great hitters is stepping away after nine seasons because of a neck injury. Chancellor was a throwback, tone-setting defensive back. He could change the game with an open-field hit, stop the run and direct traffic for cornerbacks. The fifth-round pick is a Super Bowl champion and four-time Pro Bowler.
Safety: James Ihedigbo
Ihedigbo was a part-time starter over six NFL seasons but broke out in 2014 with four interceptions and three forced fumbles with the Detroit Lions. He’s now making plays in the American Flag Football League.
Safety: Michael Griffin
Griffin signed a one-day contract in May to retire with the Tennessee Titans, who drafted him 19th overall in 2007. He rewarded that faith with two Pro Bowls and a second-team All-Pro selection in 2010. His career fizzled after a short stint with the Carolina Panthers in 2016.
Cornerback: DeAngelo Hall
Hall said in May that he was “done” with football. Then the Redskins issued a tweet that he hadn’t officially retired, though several injuries over the years will most likely force him to. The 34-year-old made three Pro Bowls and is the last NFL player to record four interceptions in a single game.
Cornerback: Darrelle Revis
Revis near-flawless work at cornerback will earn him a gold jacket soon enough. The four-time All-Pro announced his retirement Wednesday. He leaves the game as a Super Bowl champion, a seven-time Pro Bowler and the owner of one of the NFL’s best nicknames, Revis Island. He will be remembered as much for his business savvy, parlaying his greatness into several lucrative contracts with the New York Jets.