Baltimore Ravens: Will Anyone Retire This Offseason?

May 28, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. (89) speaks after the OTA at the Under Armour Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
May 28, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith, Sr. (89) speaks after the OTA at the Under Armour Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports /

Several of the NFL’s best have decided to retire after this season. Could the Baltimore Ravens lose someone to retirement?

The NFL has a problem.

The days of players continuing their careers until their bodies cannot handle the pain or the production is no longer there are slowly disappearing. These days, players are calling it quits before they suffer the long-term effects of playing football.

Some of the NFL greatest will retire this offseason. Charles Woodson, Justin Tuck and Calvin Johnson all previously announced their intentions to retire. Marshawn Lynch tweeted out a photo of his cleats hanging as a notion that he too will no longer take the football field. And while he didn’t officially say it last night, Peyton Manning is most likely going out on top as a champion. All five players are some of the best to play the game over the past decade and the game will miss them. 

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It also gets you to thinking. Could any Baltimore Ravens be thinking about calling it quits?

The first name that comes to mind is Steve Smith. He originally planned to make last season is final campaign, but a torn Achilles left him yearning for more. He was not going to have his Hall of Fame career end with a towel draped over his head and being carried off the field. He’s too much of a competitor for that.

Another player who some questioned whether he would make a return to the field is Terrell Suggs. At 33 years old, he is one of the oldest players on the roster and is coming off his second Achilles tear. He has made it clear that he wants to return, and seeing a 33-year-old DeMarcus Ware flying around the field like he was on Super Bowl 50 only makes him more confident he can do it also.

Chris Canty is a player to watch in the upcoming weeks. He is under contract for another season, but there were rumors that he was contemplating retirement before last season after the Ravens originally cut him. He is scheduled to take up $2.9 million against the cap next season, but the team could opt to release him once again and it would only cost them $765,000. If that situation does play out, it’s possible that Canty really does walk away from the game this time. We should find out on March 9 what the Ravens plan to do with Canty as he is due a $150,000 roster bonus on that day.

Everyone is waiting to see what happens with Dennis Pitta. He was on the physically unable to perform list this season as he battles back from two hip surgeries. He is still trying to make a comeback, but it’s doubtful that it happens. As John Harbaugh has repeatedly said, Pitta has to worry about his future in lieu of the desire to want to play. It’s probably best for him to give up the game, so it will not come as much of a shock if he does announce that he will end his playing career.

Those four guys make up some of the veteran players on the roster and it’s not all that far-fetched if they do decide retire. What teams worry about these days is the surprise retirement. No one expected many of the San Francisco 49ers top young players to begin quitting so early in their careers. Everyone was stunned when Patrick Willis, Anthony Davis and Chris Borland all retired within months of each other because of the fear of their long-term health. Earlier this season, Adrian Coxson, a 24-year-old player with the Green Bay Packers retired early and said that “the next hit to my head could possibly kill me or be life-damaging.” That is scary for the NFL.

Who is to say that some Ravens don’t decide do the same?

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The more information that comes available to the players, the more we are going to see players retiring because of injuries. The news that now Hall of Famer Ken Stabler suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is only going to bring more attention to the problem. Knee injuries are occurring at an alarming rate because defenders can’t tackle high anymore. We are seeing more and more former players suffering from mental issues in addition to the physical damage that the game causes. It’s a real problem for the NFL.

The Ravens would be hurt if Suggs or Smith were to change their mind about returning. The team was lacking a leader on both sides of the ball with both players missing. They will be missed once they walk away from the game, but many expect that to happen relatively soon given their age.

The Ravens are not expecting someone to give up their NFL career early, but that does not mean it isn’t possible. Every team needs to start planning for the scenario where guys in their mid-20s decide that it’s better to give it up sooner than later. Baltimore would be in serious trouble if someone like C.J. Mosley or Brandon Williams decided to walk away. They are important pieces to the future, but like Willis or Borland, can walk away if they feel the danger outweighs the gains.

It is only a matter of time before Manning makes his announcement that his second Super Bowl victory will be his last game. I will miss seeing Beast Mode run over defenders and Calvin making ridiculous catches. Woodson and Julius Peppers are two of the best players to play the game since the turn of the century.

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Now that the NFL season has officially come to an end, we will likely see more players decide that they no longer have anything to offer to the game. Would it hurt if a young Raven retired early? Yes. Would it be a shock? Not anymore. This is the start of a new trend in the NFL.