Pro Bowl guard Ali Marpet stunned the Bucs, if not the NFL, Sunday by announcing his retirement at age 28.
He had two years remaining on his $20.625 million contract but decided to call it quits after only seven seasons.
A second-round pick out of Division III Hobart College in 2015, Marpet emerged as a starter at right guard as a rookie and later moved to center, then left guard.
He was a stabilizing force on an offensive line that now suddenly needs to be rebuilt. Both center Ryan Jensen and guard Alex Cappa are free agents.
Marpet did not give a reason for retiring, although the decision is not believed to be injury-related.
“After seven formidable years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I have come to the decision to retire from the game that has given me so much,” Marpet wrote on Instagram.
“This organization and the people surrounding it have helped not only fulfill a dream, but also helped build me into the person I am today. I’ve made Tampa Bay my home and I look forward to serving this community in the coming years. To the coaches and teammates, family and friends, an Instagram post simply can’t express the profound impact you’ve had on me. I’m eternally grateful. Thank you Tampa Bay.”
Marpet had several discussions with the Bucs before reaching his decision, his father, Bill, said. “From what I can gather, he just wants to be healthy the rest of his life,” Bill Marpet said, adding that his son had no health issues.
“He feels like he’s accomplished everything he set out to do. I think there’s probably a lot of guys who want to do what Ali is doing. I think it’s courageous.”
Marpet signed a five-year, $54.125 million contract with the Bucs in October 2018 that included a $2 million signing bonus and $10,374,581 guaranteed. He was set to earn a base salary of $10 million in 2022 and $10.625 million in 2023. He will carry a dead salary-cap value of $7.150 million from previous restructures to his contract that could be reduced depending on if he is placed on the reserve retirement list after June 1.
The Bucs already faced a challenging offseason, beginning with having to replace retired quarterback Tom Brady. They also have some notable starters from their Super Bowl 55 championship team that will become free agents in a couple weeks. The list includes not only Jensen and Cappa, but also receiver Chris Godwin, tight end Rob Gronkowski, cornerback Calrton Davis, safety Jordan Whitehead, defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and William Gholston, and outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul.
With Marpet’s retirement, the Bucs have only two returning starters on the offensive line ― left tackle Donovan Smith and right tackle Tristan Wirfs. One of the Bucs’ best backup guards, Aaron Stinnie, also is set to become a free agent.
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Injuries to Wirfs and Jensen contributed greatly to the Bucs’ 30-27 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in a division playoff game. Brady was hit 17 times, including nine by outside linebacker Von Miller.
Brady announced his retirement Feb. 1 but left the door open to returning by saying, “you never say never.’” There’s been speculation that if Brady does decide to return to the playing field in 2022, it wouldn’t be the with Bucs, though they would own his rights.
Brady congratulated Marpet on Instagram.
“You are a warrior, and it was an honor,” Brady posted.
General manager Jason Licht would have a lot of work to do to convince Brady ― or any quarterback ― that he would have a chance to win next season.
“I want to thank Ali for all that he has done as a valued member of the Buccaneers organization over the past seven seasons,” Licht said in a statement released by the team. “He has played a key role in our success both on and off the field and we will certainly miss his leadership and his professionalism.
“It has been one of my greatest professional thrills to see his rapid ascension from a small college standout into one of the NFL’s best all round offensive linemen. As the highest Division III player ever drafted, Ali always seemed destined for greatness on the NFL level and we simply could not have attained the success without him.”
Marpet was a founding member of the Bucs’ social justice player advisory board and a longtime representative for the Bucs with the National Football League Players Association.
Marpet played every interior offensive line position for the Bucs. He started all 13 games he played as a rookie at right guard. After two seasons, he moved to center in 2017. After the Bucs signed Jensen as a free agent a year later, Marpet moved to left guard, where he has remained. He wound up starting all 101 regular-season games he played for the Bucs.
“I can’t say enough about what Ali has meant to the team over the three seasons since my arrival,” coach Bruce Arians said in a statement. “He has been the consummate professional and he has been a rock for us in the interior of our offensive line.
“We will miss him on the field and in the locker room. but I’m happy that he gets to go out as a Super Bowl champion and Pro Bowler. It’s never easy saying goodbye to a player who has meant so much to our success, but I respect and support his decision and wish him a great life after football.”
In the end, Marpet was ready to get to that life. He will remain in St. Petersburg, and his father said his decision had nothing to do with the Bucs or anything that had transpired since the end of the 2021 season. Marpet’s last game came during his only Pro Bowl appearance for the NFC in the Pro Bowl in Las Vegas.
“This had nothing to do with the team or anything like that, and Ali loved playing for the Bucs,” Bill Marpet said. “I think they will tell you that they’re happy for him. It’s still pretty emotional for me.”
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