Longtime Jaguars center Linder, a 5-time captain, retires

Brandon Linder was one of the best centers in the NFL when healthy. That wasn’t the case nearly as often as Linder or the Jacksonville Jaguars would have liked.

Linder announced his retirement Monday after eight injury-filled seasons, a decision that came once the Jaguars decided he had played his last down for the franchise.

Linder spent more than a week contemplating his future before announcing on Instagram he’s hanging up his cleats, saying “it is at this time I have decided to close this chapter of my life and retire from the NFL.”

“I am grateful to be able to fulfill my goal of retiring a lifetime Jaguar,” he wrote. “Jacksonville will remain my home. I am excited to chase new dreams and I’m looking forward to all of the great things to come in the future.”

Linder and Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke met March 16 at the facility, about an hour before the start of the league’s new year. The meeting was initially scheduled to release Linder face to face, but Baalke agreed to give the five-time team captain time to figure out his next step: retirement or try to play elsewhere.

Linder chose to call it quits after 88 games, all starts for the Jaguars.

“Congratulations to Brandon Linder and his family on an excellent NFL career,” Baalke said in a statement. “Brandon spent the entirety of his career here in Jacksonville and earned the respect of his teammates, the fans and everyone within the Jaguars organization.

“He became the first player in franchise history to earn the distinction of a gold jersey patch representative of being a five-time captain. Off the field, he represented the team with pride as an ambassador in the community. For everything he’s contributed both on and off the field, we thank him and wish him the best in retirement.”

Jacksonville drafted Linder in the third round from Miami in 2014. But the Florida native missed 41 games because of various injuries, including issues with knees, a shoulder, an ankle and his back. He missed 22 games over the past four seasons, ending two of them on injured reserve.

He was entering the final year of his contract, which included a five-year, $51.7 million extension before the 2017 season. Jacksonville paid him more than $44 million over eight years — roughly $500,000 for each game he actually played.

He was due to count $9.53 million against the salary cap. The Jaguars had decided to move on after committing $260 million, including more than $155 million guaranteed, to add seven potential starters in free agency. The spending spree gives Jacksonville a chance to get better quickly after years of botched personnel moves.

Jacksonville’s roster reshape under Baalke and new coach Doug Pederson included re-signing longtime backup center Tyler Shatley to a two-year, $4.8 million contract last month. Shatley has played in 111 games, with 33 starts, since making the team as an undrafted rookie in 2014. He replaced Linder in the lineup for the final eight games last season.

Bringing back Shatley was one of several moves designed to bolster a line that allowed rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence to get sacked 32 times in 2021.

Phil Rauscher left Minnesota to become Doug Pederson’s O-line coach in Jacksonville. The Jags then used their franchise tag on left tackle Cam Robinson for the second straight year, guaranteeing him $16.7 million in 2022, signed five-time Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff to a three-year, $49.5 million contract that includes $30 million guaranteed, and brought back versatile backup guard/tackle Will Richardson.

The Jaguars also have the No. 1 pick in next month’s NFL draft and could use it on Alabama left tackle Evan Neal or North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu. They have 11 more picks in the three-day draft and could use multiple picks to add pieces to the line, especially considering Robinson and right tackle Jawaan Taylor could be playing on one-year deals.

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