Luke Kuechly is retiring after 8 seasons in the NFL. The 2012 AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, 2013 AP Defensive Player of the Year, 5-time All-Pro, and 7-time Pro Bowler seems to be calling it quits early. The NFL world was shocked to see the middle linebacker hang up his cleats before he even turned 30. He appears to be another player in a line of many All-Pro caliber talents to put a priority on his health over the next paycheck. He joins names such as Calvin Johnson Jr, Rob Gronkowski, and Andrew Luck to set a new precedent. The current crop of NFL stars are being given a new option that was previously not thought of.
How serious were his injuries?
Since 2015, Luke Kuechly has sustained a serious injury in every year which includes 3 concussions and two shoulder surgeries. Interestingly enough, everyone I have listed previously in this article suffered a documented concussion with two years of their retirement. That is no coincidence to me. Concussions have been put on the main stage of media over the past year. The Netflix documentary on Aaron Hernandez has really dramatized the effect of head injuries. Besides the rare case of a murderous NFL player, look at someone like Antonio Brown. No one even knows how to help him. While he only has one official concussion on his injury history, many believe that CTE has a lot to do with his erratic behavior that landed him in jail on January 24th, 2020.
What better influence to retire early than Junior Seau? The Hall of Fame linebacker lost his battle with CTE just three years after his retirement and took his own life. He reserved his brain for study and the extent of his brain damage was astonishing. I think Kuechly has seen the “benefits” of a long playing career in the NFL. He decided that he didn’t want to drink out of a straw at the age of 35. Kuechly retiring relatively healthy could be the biggest catalyst for other stars looking to have the confidence to retire in their early 30’s.
Can he make the Hall of Fame despite playing 8 seasons?
If we are going off of career accolades alone then Luke Kuechly should be a first ballot Hall of Famer. 5 All-Pros is only 1 behind Junior Seau and 2 behind Ray Lewis despite playing in less than half of the seasons for both of those players. Junior Seau never won a Defensive Player of the Year Award and Ray Lewis only had two. Kuechly’s career totals are the only things working against him. His career stats in tackles and sacks are not what a typical Hall of Fame middle linebacker would look like which is the greatest argument against him. With that being said, just how good was he in his prime? Let’s compare Kuechly’s 2013 DPOY and Ray Lewis’ 2000 DPOY. Kuechly’s 4 interceptions and 156 combined tackles were both more than Lewis’ 2 interceptions and 137 combined tackles. Defensive stats are quite vanilla in nature but those are two of the best metrics available for comparison.
How much money did he make and approximately how much is he walking away from?
Kuechly actually signed a five-year, $62 million dollars extension back in 2015 meaning that he is currently walking away from about $22 million dollars by not finishing his contractual obligations through 2021. According to my calculations, he has made $43,020,460 dollars thus far in his career. To my understanding, that would most likely be enough to live on for the rest of his life. In my opinion, he is one of the smartest players to ever play in the NFL. I hope he enjoys his retirement and I predict we will see a radical change in the length of star player’s careers in the near future.