New England Patriots: Ninkovich retirement will not hurt run for repeat

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Rob Ninkovich (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Rob Ninkovich (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /

Rob Ninkovich was a valuable part of the defense for the New England Patriots during his NFL career. But will his retirement hurt or help the team?

On Sunday, linebacker Rob Ninkovich retired as a two-time Super Bowl champion for the New England Patriots at the age of 33 years old. While Ninkovich was a solid contributor during his eight seasons in New England, last year was not a good one for him. It was time for him to retire.

Overall, Ninkovich totaled 46 sacks, 14 fumble recoveries and five interceptions with the Patriots. He was one of head coach Bill Belichick’s hidden gems, uncovered after failed attempts to stick with the New Orleans Saints (2006) and Miami Dolphins (2007). He did not even play in the NFL in 2008 before joining New England the following year.

Ninkovich’s best season was 2013 when he made a career-high 91 tackles and put together the second of three straight eight-sack campaigns. It was so good that he was rewarded with a three-year contract extension worth $15 million in Week 3.

Unfortunately, last season may have been the worst for Ninkovich personally. He tore his triceps in training camp and then tested positive for a banned substance. The penalty was a four-game suspension to start the season, matching that of quarterback Tom Brady. When Ninkovich returned, he played well in spurts, tallying six tackles and one sack in the playoffs. He earned a D Player Grade from me mainly because he let his teammates down prior to the season.

The bottom line though is that is was time for Ninkovich to retire. New England is preparing to make a run at back-to-back Super Bowl titles, and he may have been cut. With the Patriots acquiring 25-year-old defensive end Kony Ealy from the Carolina Panthers in the offseason, they are in great shape. They got younger and more talented at the position.

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That is something wide receiver Andrew Hawkins saw too with his role before he decided to retire recently as well. Hawkins had signed with the team in hopes of picking up a Super Bowl ring. But he quickly realized there was too much quality competition. In the end, Ninkovich did too.