A staple of the New England Patriots linebacking core since 2008, Jerod Mayo has decided to hang up his cleats. Mayo announced via Instragram that he and his wife had decided that it was time to move on in life, and Patriots fans should be just as thankful to Mayo for his 8 years of service as he said he was to Patriot Nation.
For the past couple seasons, Mayo has been much closer to a role player than the defensive star that he used to be. Given all the firepower on the Pats’ defense today, it may be difficult for you to remember that Mayo was one of the only good players on that side of the ball for the Pats for a few years. On the 2011 team that made a run to the Super Bowl despite the 30th ranked defense according to DVOA, Mayo and Vince Wilfork were the only great players on defense. Devin McCourty had an off year, and the only reason that Sterling Moore became an AFC Championship Game hero was that the Pats were starting Sterling freaking Moore on defense.
After he went down against Cincinnati in October 2013, Mayo turned into a shell of his former self. He missed the majority of the season again in 2014 after suffering yet another October injury, and it wasn’t a good sign that people were saying by the end of the Pats Super Bowl season, “The Patriots have only had Ridley and Mayo suffer season ending injuries among their significant players, and that’s not bad at all!”
In 2015, Mayo played every game up until the AFC Championship game, but he was the clear afterthought of a linebacking core that included Hightower, Collins, and Freeney. When even Freeney seemed to be a better option thatn Mayo, or at least 90% of the player for 10% of the cost, the writing was on the wall for Mayo. He wasn’t gonna return for the 2016 season unless he took a MASSIVE paycut. It seemed obvious that the Pats would cut Mayo and his $11.4 million cap hit, thereby only being stuck with a dead cap hit of $4.4 million that could be spread out over 2 years. Mayo would sign a higher contract with some dumb team who would overpay him for his twilight years. There would be no hard feelings with his departure, but Bill Belichick isn’t dumb enough to pay a guy based on name alone.
Instead, Mayo added to the reasons that Pats fans should love him. He decided to retire, which saves New England the $4.4M in dead cap money. The $4.4M sum may not seem like a lot because every important free agent will cost much more, but it means a ton to a team that will see Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, and Malcolm Butler hit free agency next March. Jones and Hightower will probably sign extensions that will lower their 2016 cap hits, but now Belichick can use some of that $4.4M to work in an extension for Butler, for instance, that would raise his 2016 cap hit but keep the 2017 cap hit lower than expected.
Mayo’s departure is a blessing for the Pats. He was going to leave anyway barring a giant and unexpected paycut, and now BB has more room to work with. Mayo’s tenure with the Patriots had many bright spots, and it’s only fitting that his retirement is yet another one for number 51.