Players returning to their old stomping grounds via free agency, trades, or the draft doesn’t seem to happen all that often, but once they’ve called it a career, the options for where to go open up a bit.
Here are seven recently retired players who would be fun to see in their hometown colors:
Calvin Johnson – Atlanta Falcons
There’s no way the Falcons would have suffered their Super Bowl collapse with Julio Jones and Megatron on the same field.
Johnson, a native of Newnan, Ga., was rated as the best high school player in his state before joining Georgia Tech and eventually earning the second overall draft pick in 2007.
Having been to the playoffs just twice in his career and winning neither games, joining the defending NFC champions and their MVP quarterback would be a great change for Johnson.
Patrick Willis – Tennessee Titans
The Titans have slowly turned themselves into a solid roster with an increasingly stout 3-4 defense, built for guys like Willis.
The seven-time Pro Bowler left the 49ers just in time to avoid their quick descent from a division champ to a 2-14 squad, but much too early for the likes of most fans.
After a failed Silicon Valley venture, the 32-year-old native of Bruceton, Tenn., would be a good fit who could provide steady leadership as the Titans look to get back on top of the AFC South.
Jared Allen – Dallas Cowboys
Dallas needs pass-rush help and there just happens to be a local cowboy who could help them out.
Allen spent most of his on a horse ranch in California, but the 12-year pro was born in the Big D. His horse-riding, cattle-wrangling background would be a perfect fit in Texas, connecting him with the fan base and providing veteran pass-rush help to the team.
Steve Smith – Los Angeles Chargers
Smith established himself as a force within Carolina with the Panthers, where he now lives with his family, but originally, he’s a West Coast guy.
The 37-year-old was born and raised in Los Angeles, where he was an All-Star running back and defensive back in high school. He’s actually already somewhat returned to the area as an analyst for NFL Network, whose studios are located in Culver City, a suburb of L.A.
If he returned to football in his home city, joining a veteran quarterback like Philip Rivers with the Chargers is a much better fit than with Jared Goff and the young Rams as Smith has had problems with developing quarterbacks in the past.
B.J. Raji – New York Giants
Raji is just like the Giants – born in New York City, but actually lived in New Jersey.
The former Packers nose tackle could slide right into the spot currently vacated by free-agent defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, and that’s actually a realistic possibility.
When Raji left the Packers, he said he would be taking a hiatus, not retiring altogether – so if Hankins keeps his contract demands up, the Giants should inquire in Raji.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)
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