Shawne Merriman, who burst onto the scene eight years ago as one of the NFL’s most feared pass rushers but saw his status as an elite player fall apart just as quickly, has announced his retirement at the age of 28.
“After a lengthy discussion with my agent, family and team, I have officially decided to put in my retirement papers today,” Merriman wrote on his personal website. “My retirement from the game I love so much and from the game that has brought me so many opportunities on and off the field has been decided with great thought for my future on and off the field. I retire today not because I don’t feel I can go out there and still play the game at a very high level, I am retiring because I want to retire on my own terms and leave while I know I can still physically play the game.”
The Chargers took Merriman out of Maryland with the 12th overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft, and he instantly became one of the league’s best 3-4 outside linebackers, recording 10 sacks as a rookie and being chosen to the Pro Bowl while winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Merriman was even better the next year, recording 17 sacks — and doing it in only 12 games because he was suspended four games for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Merriman was good again in 2007, with 12.5 sacks, giving him a three-year total of 39.5 sacks, at the age of 23.
But then it all fell apart. Merriman played in just one game in 2008 before being lost for the season to a serious knee injury, and when he returned in 2009 he wasn’t the same player, recording just four sacks all season. In 2010 the Chargers cut him, and the Bills picked him up, but the injury-prone Merriman didn’t do much in Buffalo, recording a grand total of two sacks in his time with the Bills.
Merriman would have been a free agent this year, but he’s not going to bother seeing if any team is interested. It’s time to turn out the lights.