NFL Teams
Jeremy Fowler, ESPN Staff Writer 72d

The 2019 NFL All-Retirement team: Gronk headlines a stacked squad

NFL, Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers

The retirees are about to knock a team out of the NFL playoffs in 2019.

ESPN's fourth annual All-Retirement team is stacked. The skill positions combine for 300-plus career touchdowns. The defensive front seven has All-Pros all over the field. The kicker is legendary.

There's no Peyton Manning on this list, but two of the best centers of the past decades are available to block.

The retirement team -- composed of a player at each position who announced a retirement shortly before or after the conclusion of the 2018 season -- is a tribute to those who left the game in a better place than they found it.

All-Retirement teams:
2018 | 2017 | 2016


Josh McCown, QB

2018 team: New York Jets

One of the NFL's good guys, McCown started games for six teams since 2003, and his toughness fighting through injury was a rare bright spot during the Browns' one-win stretch from 2016 to 2017. In his final full season, he posted a 94.5 passer rating in 13 starts with the Jets. He announced his retirement June 17 and joined ESPN as an analyst.

Reserves: Derek Anderson, EJ Manuel

Jamaal Charles, RB

2018 team: Jacksonville Jaguars

An injury-filled late-career arc shouldn't discount Charles' impact on the game. From 2009 through 2014, he was one of the best. His elite speed made 80-yard runs seem fairly routine. With 707 rushing yards in his final four seasons, Charles fittingly signed a one-day contract with the Chiefs, who watched him surpass 1,000 rushing yards five times.

Chris Johnson, RB

2018 team: None (played for the Arizona Cardinals in 2017)

All running backs fade, but the memories of Johnson's battles for tailback supremacy with Adrian Peterson a decade ago will not. Johnson's 2,006-yard performance in 2009 earned him the nickname CJ2K. He finished his career with 9,651 rushing yards, good for 35th on the NFL all-time list. He also added 64 total touchdowns and a bunch of footraces won. He announced his retirement in April.

Reserve: Jonathan Stewart

Rob Gronkowski, TE

2018 team: New England Patriots

Gronkowski dropped the news of his retirement during the NFL owners meetings in March and had the hotel lobby buzzing. The Patriots great can dominate an NFL news cycle with one tweet. Gronk leaves behind a Hall of Fame portfolio after catching 521 passes for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns, with three Super Bowl rings and countless clutch postseason catches. Injuries were the only thing that ever stopped him, and now he's off to Hollywood.

Doug Baldwin, WR

2018 team: Seattle Seahawks

Baldwin earned respect as a self-made No. 1 receiver, overcoming role-player status early in his career to post consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 2015-16. He made his presence felt on and off the field, speaking out on social justice issues such as the need for police reform. He made Russell Wilson better, and Seattle won't easily replace Baldwin despite the injuries that plagued him.

Reserve: Jeremy Maclin

Jordy Nelson, WR

2018 team: Oakland Raiders

Aaron Rodgers' back-shoulder throw to Nelson was a signature play for a decade. Nelson's career ended on a quiet note with Oakland, but he produced four seasons of at least 1,200 yards in Green Bay and three of at least 13 touchdowns. He might have added to those totals if he hadn't suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2015. Nelson retired after 11 seasons and in August will sign a one-day contract with the Packers.

Reserve: Dwayne Bowe

Max Unger, OL

2018 team: New Orleans Saints

Unger was an anchor in the middle of the line for nearly a decade. His surprise retirement in March came after a Pro Bowl season with the Saints, the third of his career. Unger developed into an All-Pro center after the Seahawks drafted him in the second round in 2009, shotgun-snapping his way to a Super Bowl with Russell Wilson.

Ryan Kalil, OL

2018 team: Carolina Panthers

One of several quality centers to retire after the 2018 season, Kalil made five Pro Bowls in 12 seasons and served as a pillar for the Panthers franchise. Kalil made the decision to retire at age 33 before the season ended, leaving behind the durability of 145 career starts. He was also one of the franchise's most colorful personalities.

Reserve: Travis Swanson

T.J. Lang, OL

2018 team: Detroit Lions

Lang lived a success story that makes the NFL great -- mid-round pick out of Eastern Michigan wins Super Bowl, becomes top-shelf guard on a contending Packers team, later earns $28.5 million contract with the hometown Lions. Lang was always a baller but suffered injuries in Detroit, so he announced his retirement after 10 seasons to spend more time with family.

Andy Levitre, OL

2018 team: Atlanta Falcons

Not a marquee name but an ironman of sorts, Levitre began his career with 140 consecutive starts for the Bills, Titans and Falcons before injuries slowed him later in his career. Levitre announced his retirement in May after missing 14 games with a torn triceps. "My body won't allow me to continue any longer," Levitre wrote.

Jared Veldheer, OL

2018 team: Denver Broncos

Veldheer delivered a surprise retirement announcement after one practice with the Patriots, who signed the nine-year veteran in May. "It was an easy [decision] because of knowing what my body was telling me, but it was hard because I was leaving a very good situation," Veldheer told the MLive Media Group. Veldheer earned that rest after 113 starts with the Raiders, Cardinals and Broncos.


Julius Peppers, DE

2018 team: Carolina Panthers

An athletic "freak" before the term went mainstream, Peppers was a force every time he stepped onto the field. The three-time All-Pro ranks fourth in NFL history with 159.5 career sacks, including 97 with the Panthers, the team that drafted him No. 2 overall in 2002. "Julius is one of the greatest to ever play the game of football," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said in a statement in February.

Kyle Williams, DT

2018 team: Buffalo Bills

Loyal Bills fans love their mainstays, and they loved Williams, who appeared in 183 games over 13 seasons for the franchise. Williams was among the team's most consistent defenders, earning six Pro Bowl selections, 103 tackles for a loss and 48.5 sacks. Williams quit to spend more time with family, and coach Sean McDermott called him "truly a class act" who "bleeds red, white and blue."

Haloti Ngata, DT

2018 team: Philadelphia Eagles

The first defensive lineman the Ravens ever selected in the first round did not disappoint. Over a 13-year career, including nine with Baltimore, Ngata earned two first-team All-Pro nods, five Pro Bowls and one Super Bowl championship. Good luck moving the ball on Ngata, Terrell Suggs and Ray Lewis back in the day.

Reserve: Charles Johnson

Chris Long, DE

2018 team: Philadelphia Eagles

Long's ability on the field stands alone, but the way he ended his 11-year career elevated his profile. He was a key member of two Super Bowl teams (Eagles, Patriots) and became the 2018 recipient of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Long became known as much for giving up paychecks for social causes as for sacks. "Been a hell of a journey. Eleven years and I can honestly say I put my soul into every minute of it," said Long, who had 70 career sacks, in a retirement statement in May.

Reserve: Brian Robison

Brian Orakpo, OLB

2018 team: Tennessee Titans

Orakpo wasn't the flashiest player on this list, but he produced a sneaky-good career with four Pro Bowls over 10 years. He played six of those seasons with the Redskins, who drafted him ninth overall in 2009, followed by four seasons with the Titans. "I always wanted to be able to walk away from the game on my terms, healthy and in a great state of mind," Orakpo said in a retirement statement. Now he can focus on his cupcake side hustle.

Reserve: Arthur Moats

Derrick Johnson, ILB

2018 team: Oakland Raiders

Not many players embodied the heart and soul of the Chiefs' defense more than Johnson, who holds the franchise record for tackles (1,168). The former first-team All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowler added 14 interceptions and 27.5 sacks. He retired in May after 14 seasons.

Reserve: Gerald Hodges

NaVorro Bowman, ILB

2018 team: None (played for Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers in 2017)

Football purists lauded Bowman as a tackling missile in eight years with the 49ers. His run of four All-Pro nods in five seasons from 2011 through 2015 will live in franchise folklore. Unfortunately, injuries kept Bowman from even more accomplishments. He missed 2014 with a major knee injury and part of 2016 with a torn Achilles tendon. He played one season with the Raiders, sat out 2018 and retired properly with the 49ers in June.

Reserve: Martrell Spaight

Adam Jones, DB

2018 team: Denver Broncos

There will never be another Pacman. Jones called it quits after a 12-year career that included stints with four teams and multiple off-field issues, including a 2007 suspension for his role in a Las Vegas strip club melee. Jones rebuilt his career in Cincinnati, where he battled AFC North receivers on his way to an All-Pro and a Pro Bowl nod. In the end, he was known more for his press coverage than his antics.

Andre Hal, DB

2018 team: Houston Texans

Hal inspired the football community with his valiant cancer battle in 2018, and now leaves the game on his own terms -- "completely healthy," he said in April. "One thing I've learned in life is that change is inevitable and life goes through seasons. This season of my life has come to an end," Hal said. Diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in June 2018, Hal returned to Texans practices less than five months later and played in eight games. He finished his five-year career with Houston with 185 tackles and 12 interceptions.

Vontae Davis, DB

2018 team: Buffalo Bills

Let's try to give Davis a proper goodbye, since his own attempt was a bit of a mess. Davis rankled most of the NFL world when he abruptly retired at halftime of the Bills' 31-20 loss to the Chargers in September, later saying in a statement, "I shouldn't be out here anymore." With Davis' retirement official as of March 13, according to Spotrac.com, his play can be celebrated. Any corner with 98 career pass deflections over 10 seasons was pretty good. Davis made two Pro Bowls with the Colts.

Alterraun Verner, DB

2018 team: None (played with the Miami Dolphins in 2017)

Verner announced his retirement in March after 72 career starts over eight seasons for the Titans, Buccaneers and Dolphins. He played most recently for Miami in 2017, but he was at his best with Tennessee, where he made the Pro Bowl in 2013 with a career-high five interceptions. That play earned Verner a four-year, $25.75 million deal in Tampa, where he was benched in Year 2.

Sebastian Janikowski, K

2018 team: Seattle Seahawks

Anyone with the nickname "Seabass" deserves a spot on this list. Janikowski is an anomaly as the highest-drafted kicker of his generation -- going No. 17 overall to the Raiders in 2000 -- and lived up to his first-round billing. Janikowski made 436 career field goals, tied for ninth all time with Jason Elam. He made at least one 57-yard kick in six of his 19 NFL seasons.

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