Anytime a talented NFL player calls it a career before they’re even 30 years old, it’s interesting. That certainly doesn’t change when it comes from a player on the New England Patriots’ roster. That’s exactly what went down on Tuesday night, as star linebacker Jerod Mayo officially announced his retirement from the league at age 29.

Previously informed that his option for 2016 would not be picked up by the Pats (a bloated $11.4 million), Mayo decided the grind wasn’t tempting enough to endure in a new city. Drafted in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft, Mayo exits the game just six days shy of his 30th birthday and joins some elite company in regards to capable stars bowing out of pro football in their arguable primes. Patrick Willis was the latest big name to do so last year, while Calvin Johnson appears to be set on that path this off-season, as well.

Mayo’s Impact

Mayo was certainly deserving of his star status from day one with the Patriots, having won Rookie of the Year honors in 2008 and piling up well over 100 tackles in four of his first five seasons. Mayo’s statistical accomplishments include a career high 173 tackles back in 2010, a career high four forced fumbles in 2012 and a career high three sacks in that same year. An elite run support linebacker with solid instincts and reliable tackling ability, Mayo’s only real weakness was a lack of elite pass rush skills and only moderate ability in coverage. New England used him perfectly for much of his career, however, and even did well to use him successfully in a smaller role in 2015 – his final season.

While Mayo doesn’t leave the game playing at the highest level, he still arguably had the talent to go elsewhere and look for more money and a starting gig. Having missed 20 of 32 possible games through the 2013 and 2014 seasons, however, Mayo saw the writing on the wall and accepted a lesser role in New England last year. Mayo was able to finish his final season with 16 full games, 47 tackles and a sack. Mayo also is able to retire as a champion, having helped the Pats win the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl in 2014.

New England’s Next Move

The good news for the Patriots is Mayo was already transitioning to a smaller role and he wasn’t being counted on for as much in his final season with the team. He was absolutely a strong role player on another solid Patriots defense, but from here the Pats only save money and should be able to fill his spot with a younger, more explosive linebacker. Look for New England to do as they always do and target a player in the 2016 NFL Draft that can eventually fill his role, or more.

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