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The Best NFL Players Who Retired In 2021

Updated October 25, 2021 9.8k votes 816 voters 15.4k views64 items

List RulesVote up the retired NFL players based on their overall careers.

All the NFL players who retire in 2021 will leave a legacy that lives on. The average career length for NFL players is 3.3 years, according to the NFL Players Association. Many of the players who will appear on this list will have played much longer than the average. In this time, they have played through countless injuries and made an impact on the game. Look to this list regularly to see the best NFL players who retired in 2021, either because it was their time or because injuries cut a promising career short.

The first player to choose retirement in 2021 was Falcons quarterback Matt Schaub, who played with four different teams over the course of his sixteen-year career but made the biggest impact in Houston, where he led the league in passing and made it to two Pro Bowls.

Such short careers ensure prominent players retire from the NFL every year. Look to this list for a running record of football players retiring in 2021. Almost all of the 32 NFL teams say their goodbyes to a veteran or two each year. Vote up the recently retired NFL players who had the most impact on the game during their careers, and check back throughout the year to see who else retires. Then, go check out our list of all athletes who retired in 2021.

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  • 1
    Quarterback
    759
    53

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamNew Orleans Saints (2006-2020), San Diego Chargers (2001-2005)

    Announced retirement on March 14, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    Super Bowl champion (XLIV)
    Super Bowl MVP (XLIV)
    2× NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2008, 2011)
    First-team All-Pro (2006)
    4× Second-team All-Pro (2008, 2009, 2011, 2018)
    13× Pro Bowl (2004, 2006, 2008–2014, 2016–2019)
    7× NFL passing yards leader (2006, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2014–2016)
    4× NFL passing touchdowns leader (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012)
    2× NFL passer rating leader (2009, 2018)
    6× NFL completion percentage leader (2009–2011, 2017–2019)

    NFL Records:
    Most career passing yards
    Most career pass completions
    Highest single-season completion percentage (74.4%)
    Most consecutive games with a touchdown pass
    Most pass completions in a season
    Most 5,000 passing yard seasons
    Highest completion percentage in a game (96.7%)
    Most touchdown passes in a game (tied)
    First player to reach 80,000 career passing yards (286 games)

    #55 of 80 The Best NFL Player Nicknames#8 of 96 The All-Around Best Athletes of 2019#9 of 163 The Smartest Professional Athletes

  • 2
    Tight end
    471
    73

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamDallas Cowboys (2003-2017, 2019), Las Vegas Raiders (2020)

    Announced retirement on January 27, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    11× Pro Bowler (2004–2010, 2012–2014, 2017)
    2× First-team All-Pro (2007, 2010)
    2× Second-team All-Pro (2008, 2012)
    Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year (2012)
    Bart Starr Award (2013)
    Most career NFL games by a Tight End (271 games)
    Top 20 NFL All Time Career Receiving Yards (13,046)
    Texas Sports Hall of Fame (2019)

    #133 of 1,341 The Best Football Players Ever#7 of 87 The Greatest Tight Ends Of All Time#27 of 53 The Most Likable Active NFL Players

  • 3
    Quarterback
    513
    86

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamLos Angeles Chargers (2004-2019); Indianapolis Colts (2020)

    Announced retirement on January 20, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    8× Pro Bowler (2006, 2009–2011, 2013, 2016–2018)
    NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2013)
    NFL completion percentage leader (2013)
    NFL passing yards leader (2010)
    NFL passing touchdowns leader (2008)
    NFL passer rating leader (2008)

    #27 of 120 The Best Quarterbacks Of All Time#132 of 322 People Who Should Be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame#47 of 130 The Greatest College Football Quarterbacks of All Time

  • 4
    Tight end
    427
    67

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamChicago Bears (2007-2010), Carolina Panthers (2011-2019), Seattle Seahawks (2020)

    Announced retirement on January 24, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    3× Pro Bowler (2014–2016)
    2× Second-team All-Pro (2015, 2016)
    NFL All-Rookie Team (2007)
    First Tight End with three consecutive 1,000 yard seasons.

    #50 of 144 The Greatest Chicago Bears of All Time#18 of 62 The Best Miami Football Players of All Time#4 of 124 The Best Carolina Panthers of All Time

  • 5
    Placekicker
    229
    11

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamNew England Patriots (1996–2005), Indianapolis Colts (2006–2019)

    Announced retirement on May 26, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    4× Super Bowl champion (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX, XLI)
    3× Pro Bowl (2002, 2004, 2014)
    3× First-team All-Pro (2002, 2004, 2014)
    NFL's all-time leading scorer (2,673 points)
    Most consecutive field goals made (44)
    Most combined regular season and postseason games played (397)
    Most career field goals made (599)
    Most career field goals attempted (715)
     

  • 6
    Guard, Center
    406
    73

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamPittsburgh Steelers (2010-2020)

    Announced retirement on February 12, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    3× First-team All-Pro (2011, 2012, 2014)
    2× Second-team All-Pro (2010, 2018)
    9× Pro Bowl (2010–2012, 2014, 2016–2020)
    PFWA All-Rookie Team (2010)
    NFL 2010s All-Decade Team

  • 7
    Wide receiver
    400
    83

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamNew England Patriots (2009-2020)

    Announced retirement on April 12, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    3× Super Bowl champion (XLIX, LI, LIII)
    Super Bowl MVP (LIII)
    New England Patriots 2010s All-Decade Team
    Super Bowl Record - Most Receptions in a 1st Half (7)
    Super Bowl Record - Most Career Punt Returns (8)

    #244 of 338 The Hottest Men Of 2021, Ranked#1 of 40 The Greatest Jewish Players in NFL History#34 of 47 The Best Super Bowl MVPs of All Time

  • 8
    314
    76

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamMiami Dolphins (2011-2017), Los Angeles Chargers (2018-2020)

    Announced retirement on February 12, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    4× Pro Bowl (2013–2015, 2018)
    PFWA All-Rookie Team (2011)

  • 9
    Quarterback
    286
    67

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamSan Francisco 49ers (2005–2012) Kansas City Chiefs (2013–2017) Washington Football Team (2018–2020)

    Announced retirement on April 19, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    NFL Comeback Player of the Year (2020)
    3× Pro Bowl (2013, 2016, 2017)
    NFL passer rating leader (2017)
    #1 overall pick in 2005 NFL Draft

    #90 of 110 The Greatest Washington Redskins of All Time#39 of 86 The Best No. 1 Overall NFL Draft Picks Of All Time, Ranked#51 of 100 The Most Overlooked Quarterbacks of All Time

  • 10
    279
    97

    NationalityUnited States of America, Jamaica

    TeamNew England Patriots (2009-2012, 2014-2020), Philadelphia Eagles (2013)

    Announced retirement on March 18 , 2021

    Career Achievements:
    3× Super Bowl champion (XLIX, LI, LIII)

  • 11
    249
    84

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamSan Francisco 49ers (2010-2014), Seattle Seahawks (2015-2018), Arizona Cardinals (2019-2020)

    Announced retirement on February 22, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    4× Pro Bowl (2012–2015)
    First-team All-Pro (2012)
    Second-team All-Pro (2015)
    PFW All-Rookie Team (2010)

    #33 of 128 Athletes Who Retired In 2021#48 of 99 The Best San Francisco 49ers of All Time#38 of 225 The Best Arizona Cardinals of All Time

  • 12
    Linebacker
    180
    56

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamDallas Cowboys (2010-2020)

    Announced retirement on April 26, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    2× Pro Bowl (2015, 2016)
    First-team All-Pro (2016)
    802 career tackles

  • 13
    229
    93

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamIndianapolis Colts, (2006-2013), San Francisco 49ers (2014-2016), Arizona Cardinals (2017-2018), New York Giants (2019)

    Announced retirement on January 7, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    Super Bowl champion (XLI)
    3× Pro Bowler (2007, 2009, 2014)

  • 14
    224
    100

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamArizona Cardinals (2011-2012), Kansas City Chiefs (2013-2020)

    Announced retirement on March 4, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    Super Bowl champion (LIV)
    Pro Bowl (2018)
    Second-team All-Pro (2014)

  • 15
    Offensive Tackle
    219
    100

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamIndianapolis Colts (2011-2020)

    Announced retirement on January 12, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    Pro Football Focus Second-team All-Pro (2019)
    1 Career Touchdown

  • 16
    Wide receiver
    87
    19

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamDenver Broncos (2010-2018), Houston Texans (2018), New England Patriots (2019), New York Jets (2019)

    Announced retirement on June 28, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    Super Bowl champion (L)
    5× Pro Bowl (2012–2016)
    2× Second-team All-Pro (2013, 2014)
    Broncos All Time Leader in Playoff Receptions (53)
    Broncos All Time Leader in Regular Season Receiving Yards (1,619)

    #71 of 214 The Best Wide Receivers of All Time#32 of 41 The 41 Hottest Men in the NFL#32 of 106 The Best Denver Broncos of All Time

  • 17
    Offensive Tackle
    170
    83

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamMinnesota Vikings (2006), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2006-2013), Oakland Raiders (2014-2018), Washington Redskins (2019)

    Announced retirement on March 15, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    3× Pro Bowl (2010, 2016, 2017)
    Games started: 189
    Receptions: 6
    Receiving yards: 26
    Receiving touchdowns: 4

  • 18
    113
    50

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamCleveland Browns (2010-2013), Denver Broncos (2014-2016), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2017), Arizona Cardinals (2020)

    Announced retirement on April 21, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    Super Bowl champion (L)
    2× Pro Bowl (2013, 2014)
    Second-team All-Pro (2013)
     

  • 19
    Defensive end, Linebacker
    87
    39

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamKansas City Chiefs (2006–2017)

    Announced retirement on May 10, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    6× Pro Bowl (2010–2015)
    2× Second-team All-Pro (2011, 2013)
    PFWA All-Rookie Team (2006)
    2nd in Chiefs team history in Sacks

    #80 of 154 The Greatest Linebackers of All Time#17 of 94 The Best Penn State Football Players of All Time#64 of 96 The Greatest Defensive Ends of All Time

  • 20
    Tight end
    130
    80

    TeamWashington Redskins (2013–2019), San Francisco 49ers (2020)

    Announced retirement on April 20, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    Pro Bowl (2015)
    PFWA All-Rookie Team (2013)

  • 21
    Wide receiver
    49
    16

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamMiami Dolphins (2007–2009), San Francisco 49ers (2010–2012), Carolina Panthers (2013), Arizona Cardinals (2014), Carolina Panthers (2015–2016)

    Announced retirement on July 16, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    PFWA All-Rookie Team (2007)
    NFL record - 2 kickoff return touchdowns of 100 yards or more in a single game 
    Career receptions: 412
    Career receiving yards: 5,742
    Career receiving TDs: 33
    Career rushing yards: 486
    Career rushing touchdowns: 2
    Career return yards: 9,523
    Career return TDs: 7

    #14 of 83 The Best Ohio State Buckeyes of All Time#18 of 106 The Fastest NFL Players of All Time#28 of 58 The Best College Football Wide Receivers of All Time

  • 22
    Cornerback
    31
    0

    TeamNew England Patriots (2014–2017), Tennessee Titans (2018–2020)

    Announced retirement on August 31, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    2× Super Bowl champion (XLIX, LI)
    Pro Bowl (2015)
    Second-team All-Pro (2016)
    New England Patriots 2010s All-Decade Team

  • 23
    47
    34

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamCincinnati Bengals (2006–2010), Houston Texans (2011–2019), Tennessee Titans (2020), Arizona Cardinals (2020)

    Announced retirement on June 10, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    2× Pro Bowl (2011, 2012)
    2× Second-team All-Pro (2011, 2015)

  • 24
    Defensive tackle
    20
    4

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamTennessee Titans (2011–2019), Denver Broncos (2020)

    Announced retirement on September 2, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    5× Pro Bowl (2015–2019)
    Second-team All-Pro (2013)
    507 career tackles
    51 career sacks
    8 career forced fumbles

  • 25
    Running back
    21
    7

    NationalityUnited States of America

    TeamPhiladelphia Eagles (2011–2012), Cleveland Browns (2013), Indianapolis Colts (2014), New England Patriots (2015–2017), Tennessee Titans (2018–2019)

    Announced retirement on August 13, 2021

    Career Achievements:
    Super Bowl champion (LI)
    Career rushing yards: 2,425
    Career receptions: 191
    Career receiving yards: 1,408
    Career return yards: 1,845
    Career touchdowns: 21