Basically, Mendenhall says: (1) he has done everything he could do in football; (2) football has become more about entertainment than football; and (3) he no longer wishes to put his body at risk for the entertainment of others.
Mendenhall also explains that he has experienced hate and racism, presumably via the Internet. Possibly in response to his controversial remarks following the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011.
Lost in Mendenhall’s essay is any reference to his actual expected earnings in 2014 or beyond. At one point he explains that others have asked, “You’re just going to walk away from millions of dollars?” But it’s unlikely that anyone would have paid him “millions” in 2014.
Last year, Mendenhall was paid $2.5 million by the Cardinals. Eventually, he was displaced by rookie Andre Ellington. With a soft market for veteran tailbacks, Mendenhall quite possibly was at the point where, if he found a team, he’d be getting at best the veteran minimum for a player with six years of experience.
It’s probably not a coincidence that Mendenhall’s initial column hinting strongly at retirement came after the Scouting Combine, where his agent would have learned whether and to what extent the Cardinals or another team have interest in employing Mendenhall for another year, or longer.
In the end, that’s the unanswered question. How much is he really walking away from? Our guess is that it’s a non-guaranteed base salary $715,000.
While still not easy to walk away from, it’s a lot easier to walk away from than $7.15 million.