Three early and sudden NFL retirements could beget a trend

On the first official day of the 2015 NFL offseason, a lot of strange things happened. There were four trades involving Pro Bowl players and Pro Bowlers Ndamukong Suh, Jeremy Maclin, Darrelle Revis, Mike Iupati, Julius Thomas and Frank Gore changed teams. But the strangest thing that happened involved three players who won’t be playing football in 2015.

On Tuesday, three separate players at or near their prime shockingly retired. Jake Locker walked away at 26, Jason Worilds called it quits at 27 and Patrick Willis decided to hang them up only six weeks after turning 30. Worilds and Willis remain starting-caliber football players and Locker could have made millions as a backup for years to come.

It all comes less than a week after former Pro Bowler Maurice Jones-Drew announced his retirement at the age of 29.

“It’s my health first,” said Willis, who has had foot problems, at his goodbye press conference.

You get the feeling the other two dudes had similar feelings, although neither would say it. Locker, who was a first-round pick in 2011, stated he no longer had “the burning desire necessary to play the game for a living,” while Worilds — a second-round pick in 2010 — didn’t cite health concerns but was vague about his decision. Regardless, a man who was ranked 11th among all free agents by Pro Football Talk left a king’s ransom on the table.

At least Willis got paid before riding into the sunset. The deal he signed in 2010 contained $29 million in guaranteed money and he was paid about $36 million the last five years. He made close to $50 million during his eight-year career.

Worilds made $3.7 million during his first four years in the league and played under a $9.8 million tender in 2014. Apparently that one jackpot was enough. He’ll walk away with over $13 million in career earnings, which is a little more than the $12.6 million Locker made during his four NFL seasons.

It makes you wonder if more of these guys are beginning to realize that the risk of long-term football-related health problems just isn’t worth it. CTE has become a frightening acronym as more and more reports emerge linking former players to degenerative brain issues.

Get your money and get out.

Brad Gagnon

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com (covering Super Bowls XLIV, XLV and XLVI), a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Bloguin, but his day gig has him covering all things NFC East for Bleacher Report.

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