Retirement is a tough subject for NFL players.
Some go out too soon, leaving fantasy football owners in the dust.
Some stick around too long and crush their fantasy owners.
With those distinctly different paths in mind, here’s a quick list of 4 TEs who should strongly consider hangin’ up their cleats this offseason.
Note: *The number next to each player represents their age heading into the 2014 season
Tony Gonzalez (38)
Let’s address the most obvious candidate first.
Definitively, we’ll say that Gonzalez retires this offseason. He recently told ESPN The Magazine that he might return if Atlanta enters the latter part of next season as a Super Bowl Contender (a la Roger Clemens). But don’t count on it.
Speaking on February 12th, Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff said he’s convinced that his former TE will call it quits.
“I believe Tony Gonzalez has retired. He’ll have a fantastic career in the media business.”
Gonzalez looked extra sluggish in his 17th pro season en route to an 83-859-8 line. The NFL ironman remained durable, though, appearing in all 16 games. Stunningly, he missed a mere 2 games over the course of his career. The last one came in 2006 while with the Chiefs.
It’s been a fun ride, Gonzo. You’ve earned 10 All-Pro nominations and 14 Pro Bowl berths. That’s produced top-8 fantasy finishes in each of your last 15 seasons. So, from fantasy football owners around the globe – Thank You.
Atlanta’s 2014 replacement(s): Levine Toilolo, early draft pick
Dallas Clark (35)
Clark appeared in 12 games for the Ravens, snagging 31 balls for 343 yards and 3 TDs. He clearly displayed diminished speed and sluggish route running. But the savvy veteran still has sticky hands – and he flashed them on several occasions this past season. Still, it’s time for Clark to move on from football, as he no longer possesses his unique receiving skill set. Plus, a fully healthy Dennis Pitta provides Baltimore with all they need at TE.
Clark’s mulled the decision since Baltimore’s season ended, and he’s expected to make an announcement shortly. If he makes the anticipated move, Clark will end his career with 505 catches, 5,665 yards and 53 TDs.
Baltimore’s 2014 starter: (Potential top-3 fantasy TE…) Dennis Pitta
Antonio Gates (34)
Sure … this one’s for selfish reasons. Young TE Ladarius Green dazzled fantasy owners with elite athleticism last year, busting off long gains with regularity. In fact, he averaged a ridiculous 22.1 yards-per-catch, albeit on just 17 catches.
Still, it’s clear that this 6’6, 240 pounder carries clear TE1 value – both in fantasy and reality. Beyond the size, Green boasts impressive open field speed, precise route running and reliable hands. He also has a resurgent QB chucking him the ball in Philip Rivers.
Of course, an aging Antonio Gates stands in the way of his fantasy upside. But don’t think he’s automatically guaranteed a roster spot – not with an upcoming salary of $5 million. He didn’t earn his keep last year, scoring just 4 TDs despite 116 targets – his most since 2007. The TD mark was his lowest since his rookie year (2003).
Realistically, Gates won’t walk away from the game until at least 2015. And there’s little chance that the Chargers cut him. He’s a long-time staple of the San Diego franchise, and he’s certainly a future Hall of Famer. With that said, we’d appreciate it if he took on a reduced role in 2014, allowing the understudy to shine.
San Diego’s 2014 starter: Ladarius Green … provided he improves this offseason, particularly in the blocking department. At worst, San Diego figures to implement more 2-TE sets.
Kellen Winslow (31)
Winslow checks in as the youngest member of this list. But age doesn’t matter much when your career’s taken his path.
Let’s start on the field. In 2013 – his first season with the Jets – Winslow racked up 31 catches, 388 yards and 2 TDs across 12 games. His 12.5 yards-per-catch mark is undeniably solid. He continued to cause problems with his mouth, though, and it led to several sideline outbursts.
Unfortunately, Winslow’s off-field activities garnered more headlines than his on-field play. He missed 4 games because of PED use. He was arrested for possession of marijuana (the medical kind, at least). And most recently, a woman said she spotted him masturbating in his car. You can’t make this stuff up.
With all of those events out in the open, the case for Winslow to retire is an open-and-shut one.
New York’s 2014 replacement(s): Early draft pick, Jermichael Finley, Dustin Keller