The NFL retirement awakening

NFL free agency is upon us, and, as usual, dozens of players we hardly knew are cashing in for multi-year multi-million dollar contracts. Beneath the free agency headlines, however, are the less glamorous retirement headlines.

Most years, retirement news is hardly news at all. Hobbled veterans well into their thirties start to lose a step and don’t generate as much interest as they’d hoped on the free agent market, so they hang it up for good.

This year, however, a few NFL retirements have not fit that mold. Patrick Willis, Jason Worilds, and Jake Locker all could have signed lucrative multi-year deals this week, had they chosen to continue their careers.

Out of the three, Willis had the most serious injury. He has had toe problems since college, and aggravated the injury last season, requiring surgery. Still, this likely would not have been a major deterrent for the many teams in need of an elite linebacker.

We may be witnessing an awakening. Willis, Worilds, and Locker have likely seen and talked to dozens of veterans who came before them. Veterans who can’t comfortably chase their kids around the backyard, or who can’t remember their addresses. Veterans who would give back their last three-year contracts just to sleep through the night pain-free.

As Grantland’s Bill Barnwell phrased it, “their logic might be shifting from getting as much as possible for as long as possible to getting enough before getting out.”