Linebacker Jerod Mayo, a two-time Pro Bowler who has been a Patriots team captain the past seven years and led the team in tackles for five straight seasons, gave every indication on Tuesday he is retiring.
In an Instagram post he titled, “RETIRING A PATRIOT,” Mayo thanked members of the organization for what he called a life-changing event.
Taken with the 10th pick of the first round in the 2008 NFL Draft, Mayo has spent his entire eight-year career with the Patriots, anchoring the defense and, when healthy, piling up a team-leading number of tackles.
Staying healthy for Mayo — who turns 30 on Feb. 23 — has been a problem recently. This past season marked the third straight that Mayo saw shortened by injury. He was placed on season-ending injured reserve Jan. 19, three days after the Patriots beat Kansas City in an AFC divisional playoff game, and five days before the AFC Championship game. He missed the 20-18 loss to the Broncos in Denver, after suffering a shoulder injury against the Chiefs.
In the two seasons prior to that, 2013 and 2014, Mayo was limited to six games each. He tore knee ligaments in 2014, and tore a pectoral muscle the year before.
Even before suffering the shoulder injury in this season’s playoff game, Mayo’s role had diminished. Part of it had to do with his comeback from the serious knee injury, which limited his training camp and preseason. But part of it was the emergence of linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, younger players whom the Patriots would like to keep. Both are scheduled to become free agents after the 2016 season, and both can have their contracts extended now, should the Patriots choose.
Mayo’s retirement would save the Patriots $7 million in cap space for 2016.
It’s hard to imagine Mayo making a bigger impact over his first five seasons. He missed just a total of five games, and led the Patriots in tackles every year, including 2008, when he played all 16 games and was named the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year. He was elected a team captain in 2009, an honor he would receive in each of the next seven seasons.
Mayo’s best seasons were 2010 and 2012, when he finished the regular season with 193 and 184 tackles, respectively, and was named to the Pro Bowl both years. He was named a first-team All-Pro in 2010.
At 6 feet 1 inches and 250 pounds, Mayo wasn’t a freakish athlete like Collins, and didn’t make a number of highlight plays (for his career, he has 11 sacks, 3 interceptions, 8 forced fumbles, and 7 fumble recoveries). What Mayo was, at least until this season, was a consistent high-volume tackler who was on the field for almost every defensive snap. He was also a team leader and a mentor to younger teammates.
Might that continue? The Patriots are in need of a linebackers coach, since Patrick Graham, who had been with the Patriots since 2009, has left to become the defensive line coach for the Giants.
While Mayo has not publicly expressed an interest in coaching, his teammates have praised him for his experience, his locker room and huddle presence, and his smarts. Especially his smarts.
“He has to process a lot of information in a short amount of time, and he’s very well-read off the field,” Ryan Wendell said of Mayo before Super Bowl XLIX. “He’s never sitting around, he’s always doing something, and that allows him to explore a lot of different things. He’s always talking about different ideas.”
Where Mayo goes next or what he decides to take on remains to be seen, but he sounded appreciative of what he’s been able to accomplish with the Patriots the past eight years. He played in one Super Bowl – losing to the Giants in the 2011 season – and won a ring when the Patriots beat Seattle a year ago.