New York Jets left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, a former Pro Bowl player known for his remarkable durability, retired Friday at age 32, posting a note on the team's website and through his Twitter account.
"As I considered the words I would say to you, I recognize a simple truth: It just isn't easy saying goodbye," Ferguson wrote. "... Today we celebrate a different type of moment, one that marks the completion of a journey versus the start of one. Today marks my retirement from the NFL as a professional football player."
Ferguson, the No. 4 overall pick in 2006, has no known injury issues. Not only did he play every game in 10 seasons -- 167 consecutive starts, including the playoffs -- but he also never missed a practice and never appeared on an injury report.
In fact, Ferguson missed only one offensive snap in 10 years, and that was a trick play when the entire offensive line was removed.
Ferguson wrote that it had become harder to play up to his usual standard. His performance slipped last season, fueling speculation about his future with the Jets.
"I never wanted to define myself by the size of a potential contract, but rather by my ability to compete with the best that the game could offer," he wrote. "Though I was successful in accomplishing that feat largely throughout my career, the difficulty in playing at such a level began to increase."
With a $14.1 million cap charge for 2016, Ferguson was an obvious candidate for a pay cut. The Jets have less than $1 million in cap room and still hope to re-sign quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Ferguson was approached last week in the weight room by general manager Mike Maccagnan, who broached the possibility of a pay cut. The conversation was brief. The Jets and Ferguson's agent never engaged in formal discussions about reworking his contract, sources told ESPN. By then, Ferguson was already considering retirement, according to sources.
His departure frees $9 million in cap room.
"There are a few things you hope for when you select a player fourth overall in the NFL draft," team owner Woody Johnson said. "First, you want him to be a responsible citizen and role model. Second, you want him to be a leader in the locker room. Third, you want him to be reliable while performing at a high level for a number of seasons.
"D'Brickashaw has exceeded each of these expectations during his career and will be remembered as one of the finest players in Jets history."
Todd Bowles coached Ferguson for only one season but said he was impressed with his approach and commitment.
"I knew he was going to work every day and be reliable," Bowles said. "A true professional, he always demonstrated a desire to win as well as the discipline to do what is necessary. From my perspective, D'Brickashaw embodied what you want from all of your players."
The Jets weren't blindsided by the decision, and they have already been working toward securing his replacement. They have agreed to a one-year contract with left tackle Ben Ijalana, a league source confirmed. Ijalana, a three-year backup to Ferguson, is one of the Jets' fallback options. They are still exploring other veteran options.
The Jets agreed to a trade Saturday to acquire Denver Broncos OT Ryan Clady, a four-time Pro Bowl selection who missed last season with an ACL tear. The Jets gave up a fifth-round selection in this year's draft and received a seventh-rounder in addition to Clady.
Although he never suffered an injury, Ferguson had expressed concern about his well-being after football. He made headlines in December when he spoke candidly about the league-wide concussion issue, acknowledging it could affect how long he plays.
After seeing the movie "Concussion," Ferguson wrote a column for SI.com, saying he felt "betrayed" by NFL medical personnel who tried to downplay the long-term effects of concussions.
Referring to the extremely early retirement of former San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, Ferguson wrote: "I thought perhaps he was acting very abruptly, but I now cannot fault him. If we know the risks, then why do we still play?"
Ferguson thanked a number of people on Friday for helping him throughout his career, including his family, friends and members of the Jets organization.
"I am proud of what I have accomplished in this league, but football has also taught me that you can't do it all alone," he wrote. "Others have sacrificed so much to allow me the opportunity to be where I am today, people who have paved the way before me, people who have invested in my life and willingly worked with me to help me achieve my dreams."
Ferguson was a Pro Bowl selection from 2009 to 2011, when he was known as one of the best pass-protecting left tackles in the league. He played more than 10,000 snaps in his career, missing only one -- the final play of the 2008 season. Then-coach Eric Mangini called a gadget play with skill-position players lining up as offensive linemen, with cornerback Darrelle Revis assuming Ferguson's left tackle spot.
"I count it as a blessing, and I don't take it for granted," Ferguson said last season, referring to his streak, adding: "I haven't had any major bang-ups. I mean, I've been banged up, but not to the point where I couldn't play. Stuff has happened, [but] nothing ever that bad."