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Donovan McNabb and 15 Others NFL Players Who Signed and Retired

by: Esteban On  Tuesday, July 30, 2013

NFL sign and retire

Some NFL players move around the league so much that you don’t really think of one specific team when you recall their careers. Take Terrell Owens, for example. The guy is number two on the list of career receiving yards, but do you think of him as a 49er, an Eagle, or a Cowboy?

There are other players, however, that you will always remember as playing for one team, even if they played for others. Donovan McNabb was one of these guys, and on Monday he signed a one-day contract with the Philadelphia Eagles so he could retire an Eagle.

Of course, this sign-and-retire thing has become pretty prevalent in recent years. The way the game has changed over the decades, with free agency and high salaries, guys try to extend their careers as long as possible, even if that means leaving the place they feel most at home. Teams, meanwhile, have to make economic decisions that cut against sentiment, which means cutting ties with fan favorites.

The sign-and-retire, therfore, is a way for everyone to get a bit of closure. And today we’re going to take a look at 15 of the most notable such retirements in recent memory.

15. Jeff Saturday

jeff saturday - nfl sign and retire

Indianapolis Colts, 2013

Jeff Saturday spent 12 seasons with the Colts. He was the only center to ever snap the ball to Peyton Manning, and he made five Pro Bowl appearances with the Colts before playing one last season (and making one last Pro Bowl appearance) with the Packers. However, on March 7, 2013 Saturday signed a one-day contract so he could retire a Colt.


14. Brian Dawkins

brian dawkins - nfl sign and retire

Philadelphia Eagles, 2012

Brian Dawkins dominated the backfield for Philadelphia for 13 seasons, making seven of his nine Pro Bowl trips and five of his six All-Pro selections as an Eagle. Thus, after playing two final seasons with the Broncos in 2009 and 2010, it was a no-brainer for Dawkins to sign-and-retire with the Eagles on April 28, 2012.


13. LaDainian Tomlinson

ladainian tomlinson - nfl sign and retire

San Diego Chargers, 2012

Five years from now, will anybody even remember that Ladainian Tomlinson played for the Rex Ryan-era Jets? Of course not. The 2006 NFL MVP and 2x NFL rushing leader will always be remembered as a San Diego Charger. He signed a one-day contract with the Bolts on June 18, 2012, and team president Dean Spanos said they would retire Tomlinson’s No. 21 jersey in the near future.


12. Torry Holt

torry holt - nfl sign and retire

St. Louis Rams, 2012

Torry Holt was one of the most important players on the “Greatest Show on Turf”-era St. Louis Rams. He led the league in receiving yards twice, put up six straight seasons with at least 1,300 receiving yards, and put up eight straight with at least 1,100. However, he spent his final full season not with St. Louis, but with Jacksonville, before signing a one-day deal and retiring as a Ram on April 4, 2012.


11. Isaac Bruce

isaac bruce super bowl touchdown - nfl sign and retire

St. Louis Rams, 2010

How good were the 1999-2004 St. Louis Rams? Torry Holt is No. 11 on the all-time receiving yards list, and Isaac Bruce—the last Ram to have played with the team before they moved from L.A. to St. Louis—is No. 4.  Bruce gained all but 1,099 of his 15,208 receiving yards while playing for the Rams. The rest came with San Francisco. However, he would retire as a Ram on June 7, 2010.


10. Aaron Glenn


Houston Texans, 2010

The case of diminutive cornerback Aaron Glenn is a strange one. He didn’t play the majority of his career with the Texans. Instead, he played his first seven years with the Jets, then the last four with the Cowboys, Jaguars and Saints. However, apparently it was his two season with the expansion Houston Texans that meant the most to him, because on July 28, 2010, he became the first ever player to sign and retire with them.


9. Zach Thomas

zach thomas - nfl sign and retire

Miami Dolphins, 2010

Zach Thomas made seven trips to the Pro Bowl and was a five-time first team All-Pro with the Miami Dolphins. For that reason, the linebacker was one of the team’s most popular players and, arguably, the face of the franchise. It was therefore a no-brainer for Thomas to sign and retire with the Fins on May 20, 2010, after a year each with the Cowboys and Chiefs.


8. David Tyree

david tyree David Tyree New York Giants, 2010

New York Giants, 2010

David Tyree didn’t have a prolific career. He played just five seasons with the Giants and one with the Ravens, never amassing more than 211 receiving yards and making the Pro Bowl only once…as a special teams player. However, Tyree made one of the most famous catches in the history of the NFL—”the helmet catch”—which helped the Giants win Super Bowl XLII, and for that he definitely deserved to retire a Giant on July 29, 2010.


7. Jason Elam

jason elam - nfl sign and retire

Denver Broncos, 2010

Jason Elam isn’t just a three-time Pro Bowl and two-time All-Pro placekicker. He’s also the Denver Broncos’ all-time leader in games played at 236, and he scored a point in every single one of them. That’s why he did the old sign-and-retire with Denver on March 30, 2010, after wrapping up his playing days with the Atlanta Falcons.


6. Larry Allen

larry allen - nfl sign and retire

Dallas Cowboys, 2010

Larry Allen played in more Pro Bowls than any other Dallas Cowboys offensive player (11) and was recently voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Thus, despite the fact that he finished his career with the 49ers in 2006 and 2007, this guy had to retire a Cowboy—and that’s what he did on August 29, 2008.


5. Tony Boselli

tony boselli - nfl sign and retire

Jacksonville Jaguars, 2006

How popular was this three-time All-Pro offensive tackle in Jacksonville? So popular that the local McDonald’s franchises offered something called the “Boselli Burger” for a period of time. Unfortunately, after six seasons with the Jags from 1995 to 2001, he was chosen by the Texans in the 2002 NFL expansion draft. Injuries prevented Boselli from ever playing a game in Houston, and he retired in 2002—as a Texan. However, in 2006, he came out of retirement to sign a one-day contract with Jacksonville and officially re-retire as a Jaguar.


4. Jerry Rice


San Francisco 49ers, 2006

The idea of Jerry Rice, the greatest receiver of all-time, playing with anybody other than the San Francisco 49ers is just absurd. And yet it happened. Rice played with the Raiders from 2001-2003, and then logged a few games as a Seattle Seahawk in 2004. There was never any doubt, though, that he would retire a 49er, and that expectation became a reality on August 19, 2006. The Niners signed Rice to a $1,985,806.49 contract—with the 1985 representing his first year in the NFL, the 80 representing his number, the 06 representing the year he retired, and the 49, of course, representing the 49ers.

Unfortunately for Jerry, no, he did not actually collect that money. It was all for show.


3. Emmitt Smith

emmitt smith - nfl sign and retire

Dallas Cowboys, 2005

Emmitt Smith’s situation was similar to that of Jerry Rice. He became an NFL legend (and broke the all-time rushing yards record) with the Cowboys, played out his career with the Cardinals, but came back to retire with Dallas in February 2005. There was simply no other way this storied career could have ended.


2. Thurman Thomas

thurman thomas - nfl sign and retire

Buffalo Bills, 2001

You know who else was pretty good at running the football? Thurman Thomas. The man posted eight consecutive 1000-yard seasons, won one MVP award, and made five trips to the Pro Bowl (plus four losing trips to the Super Bowl) with the Buffalo Bills. However, he took his last handoff as a member of the Miami Dolphins before signing a one-day contract with Buffalo in February 2001 and retiring a Bill.


1. Art Monk

art monk - nfl sign and retire

Washington Redskins, 1997

Hall of Fame receiver Art Monk made three Pro Bowl appearances and won three Super Bowls with the Washington Redskins from 1980-93. He played his last two NFL seasons with the Jets and Eagles in 1994 and 1995, respectively, but in July of 1997, Monk signed and retired with Washington.