When Does the Average NFL Player Retire?

The average NFL player retires at the age of 30.5 years old. This is due to a number of factors, including the physical toll that playing professional football takes on the body, as well as the short shelf-life of most NFL careers.


On average, NFL players tend to retire around the age of 30. However, there are a number of factors that can influence when a player decides to hang up their cleats. For instance, players who have suffered serious injuries may retire earlier than those who haven’t. Additionally, players who have entered the league at a younger age tend to retire sooner than those who enter the league later in their career. Ultimately, it is up to the individual player to decide when the time is right for them to retire.


The average player in the National Football League retires at age 34 according to a study of retired NFL players. The study, which was conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, looked at 1,256 retired NFL players.

Average NFL career length by position

Interestingly, the average career length varies significantly by position, with quarterbacks and wide receivers having the longest careers and running backs and linebackers having the shortest. This likely has to do with the fact that quarterbacks and wide receivers rely less on brute force and more on agility, speed, and elusiveness, which tend to be skills that decline more slowly with age. In contrast, running backs and linebackers rely more on pure physicality, which tends to peak at a younger age and then decline rapidly.

Here are the average career lengths by position:

Quarterbacks: 3.3 years
Running backs: 2.57 years
Wide receivers: 2.81 years
Tight ends: 2.64 years
Offensive linemen: 2.84 years
Defensive linemen: 2.65 years
Linebackers: 2.36 years
Defensive backs: 2.53 years

Average NFL career earnings

According to a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the average NFL career lasts just 3.3 years. Furthermore, the report found that the average NFL player earnings are just $780,000 during their career. This is in contrast to the NBA where the average player earns $7.1 million per year and has a career lasting an average of 4.8 years.

Reasons for early retirement

The average NFL player retirement age is 36. But many players retire much earlier, some in their 20s. Why do they retire early? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons.


A study done by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 2015 showed that NFL players had a life expectancy of 53 years, which is about 20 years shorter than the average white male in the United States. While this number has increased over time due to better medical care and rule changes aimed at player safety, it is still significantly lower than the general population.

One of the biggest reasons for this difference is the prevalence of injuries in football. A report from 2017 showed that nearly 30% of NFL players experience an injury each season that forces them to miss at least one game. These injuries can range from concussions and other head injuries to ACL tears and broken bones.

Many of these injuries can have long-term effects on a player’s health and lead to early retirement. For example, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a degenerative brain disease that can be caused by repeated head trauma. CTE has been linked to memory problems, depression, and dementia, and has been found in postmortem examinations of many former NFL players.

Players who suffer serious injuries may be forced to retire early in order to avoid further damage to their health. In some cases, players may retire voluntarily if they feel they are no longer able to compete at a high level due to their injuries.

Lack of passion

Many NFL players retire early due to a lack of passion for the game. After years of being on the field and in the locker room, some players simply fall out of love with football. For other players, this may happen after suffering an injury that prevents them from playing at their previous level. Once they no longer have the passion for the game, many players choose to retire rather than continue playing at a lower level.

Financial security

One of the biggest reasons that NFL players retire early is for financial security. NFL careers are notoriously short, and players are constantly at risk of serious injuries that could end their careers abruptly. For many players, retiring early is a way to ensure that they and their families will be taken care of financially in the event that something happens to them on the field. In addition, players who have already made a good amount of money may see no reason to continue playing and risk injury when they can instead retire and enjoy their earnings.

Reasons for late retirement

The average NFL player retires at 30 years old. The main reason for this is because of the toll that playing football takes on the player’s body. That being said, there are some players who do manage to play into their mid to late thirties. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why this is the case.

Love of the game

Many NFL players continue to play because they love the game. They have a passion for football and feel blessed to be able to earn a living playing a sport they love. Even though the physical demands of the sport take a toll on their bodies, they would rather continue playing as long as they can. Some NFL players retire early because their bodies can no longer take the pounding, but many others choose to play as long as they can because they enjoy it and feel like they still have something to give.

Financial insecurity

Many NFL players retire early due to financial insecurity. Despite the fact that NFL salaries have increased dramatically in recent years, the average career length in the league is still only 3.3 years. This means that most players will only earn a fraction of their potential earnings over the course of their careers.

This financial insecurity is compounded by the fact that NFL players face a higher risk of injuries than players in other professional sports leagues. Injuries can end a player’s career abruptly, and even minor injuries can lead to long-term health problems that can reduce a player’s earning potential.

The stresses of life as an NFL player can also take a toll on players’ mental health, which can lead to early retirement. The intense media scrutiny and pressure to perform at a high level can be overwhelming for some players, and the physicality of the sport can lead to chronic pain and discomfort.


The average NFL career lasts just over three years, according to a recent study. This is much shorter than most people expect. The study found that the median career length was just 2.66 years.

This means that half of all NFL players have careers that last 2.66 years or less. Of course, this doesn’t mean that every player will only last three years or less. Some players will have very long careers, while others will retire early due to injury or poor performance.

The study also found that the majority of players (84%) never make it to a second contract. This means that they are only in the league for one or two seasons before they are let go by their team.

So if you’re dreaming of a long NFL career, you may want to think again. The average player doesn’t last very long in the league.

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