The Patriots faced a difficult decision this offseason: ask linebacker Jerod Mayo to restructure his hefty contract (again), or simply part ways with the veteran. In the end, Mayo made the choice easy for them, by taking the choice away from them. On Tuesday evening, via his Instagram account, Mayo announced his retirement from professional football.
Mayo posted a photo consisting entirely of text, in which he expressed his "sincere gratitude" to the Patriots organization for making him part of the club for the past eight seasons, as well as the team's fans for supporting him throughout his career. In the caption section beneath the post, Mayo wrote, in all capital letters, "RETIRING A PATRIOT."
Mayo, New England's first-round draft choice (10th overall) in 2008, quickly ingratiated himself to his Patriots coaches and teammates, becoming a starter virtually from Day 1 and earning the title of co-captain in his second season -- a role he's maintained ever since. Known for his assiduous dedication to film study in the classroom and coach-like attention to detail on the field, Mayo led the Patriots in tackles several times in his career.
However, the past three seasons came to premature ends for the now-29-year-old, when he suffered pectoral, knee, and pectoral injuries respectively in 2013, '14, and '15, all of which landed him on the injured reserve list. As a result of the first two injuries, both of which came in Week 6 of those seasons, Mayo's role was reduced this past year to that of a nominal starter. He would often be on the field for the first play of the game, then spend much of the rest of the contest on the sideline. Other times, he would begin games on the bench and substitute into the game only sparingly.
Heading into 2016, Mayo would have weighed heavily on the Patriots' books. Had New England picked up an option in his contract next month, his salary cap number would have topped $11 million. For a player whose health and on-field contributions had so significantly diminished, that would have been a tough financial pill for the team to swallow, even for someone as dedicated to them as Mayo has been.
By retiring, Mayo saves the Patriots some $7 million (for accounting purposes, he will still cost $4.4 million toward New England's cap in 2016).
With free agency scheduled to begin on March 9 and the NFL Draft coming at the end of April, linebacker was likely to be an area targeted by the Patriots already, but Mayo's sudden retirement now makes that even more likely.
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="419876"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]As recently as this afternoon on "PFW in Progress," we discussed Mayo's future, both in New England and in the NFL in general, and came to the conclusion that he had likely played his final game for the Patriots. We wondered whether he might try to play for another team or jump into a coaching role. It seems, based on his social media post tonight, that he has ruled out the former, but the wording of his announcement leaves the latter less clear.
Just last month, teammates responding to Mayo's latest injury misfortune spoke glowingly of his abilities as a potential coach. Fellow linebacker Dont'a Hightower went so far as to predict that Mayo "could be a defensive coordinator" immediately, if he so chose.
Indeed, perhaps Mayo himself does not yet know exactly what he'll do in his post-Patriots playing career. He was heavily involved in the New England community, hosting an annual bowling tournament that grew in popularity over the years and making his home near Gillette Stadium. It will be interesting to see if he chooses to remain in the area to pursue a non-playing role with the club or embark on an entirely new venture elsewhere.