Former first round selection in the 2007 NFL Draft, Jon Beason, announced his retirement yesterday. The former Carolina Panther was the 25th overall pick the team traded down with the New York Jets on draft day. Marty Hurney, the former Carolina Panthers General Manager, chose to drop down from the 14th to the 25th selection in order to pick up an extra second and fifth round picks in the 2007 draft. That decision resulted in the team selecting Jon Beason and Ryan Kalil over Darrelle Revis. Rewarding the team for their selection, Beason would immediately step into the starting lineup for the Panthers, finishing his rookie season with 140 total tackles and second in voting for defensive player of the year(above Revis).
Over the course of his first four years, Beason would start 64 straight games for the team, amassing over 540 total tackles to go along with three pro bowl nods and his 2008 first team and 2009 second team All-Pro selections. Jon Beason was a team leader, a great guy, a hard worker and all around model Carolina Panther. He may have been a little small, but he was a terrific athlete and a smart student of the game. As Beason became the defensive leader, he put the defense on his back over the course of four years, and he was rewarded with a 5 year 50 million dollar contract. Beason became the highest paid middle linebacker in the league at the ripe young age of only 25, and deservingly so. Unfortunately, things fell apart from there, or well... Jon did.
As soon as the 2011 training camp opened problems started with one of Beason's Achilles tendons. Although he was limited throughout the preseason, the defensive leader chose to push on and was the week 1 starter, but didn't finish the game. Beason was placed on IR missing the remainder of the season with a torn Achilles, and this was just the beginning of his battle with injuries. The following season, 2012, Beason suffered both a sprained knee and torn labrum in his shoulder during the preseason. He tried once again to push through his injuries, but as the knee worsened Beason would again be placed on injury reserve after just four games. He faced another offseason of painful surgery and grueling rehab.
At the start of the 2013 season, both Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis had cemented their spots as the top two linebackers after spending the previous season growing and flourishing by season's end. After missing 28 out of the last 32 games, Jon Beason had lost his place on the team. He was pushed out of his natural position by a younger and better player, he was barely playing as the team mostly played nickel in the modern NFL, and as a result, he was grossly overpaid and rather unhappy. Give Beason credit, he never complained and throughout the process he was the ultimate teammate. Dave Gettleman knew he deserved better than to spend his days riding the bench, especially knowing Beason was both eating up the team's cap space and knowing his former franchise needed help on defense.
In week 5 of the 2013 NFL season, Beason was traded to the Giants for virtually nothing, and given the opportunity to get healthy and lead a new defense. He was welcomed warmly on to the team and ended up starting 12 games for the Giants. He was viewed as a welcomed veteran presence and players like Justin Tuck said Beason helped transform their defensive unit. Unfortunately, his body continued to fall apart and Beason rarely saw the field again after 2013. He started only 8 games the next two seasons and finished both of them on IR. After all the injuries, Beason is calling it quits.
I always had a soft spot for Beason, not only was he one of my favorite players as our defensive leader for four seasons, he was a guy who did everything right but just couldn't keep it going. Even after he was traded, I cheered for him all three seasons with the Giants. I really wanted him to succeed. You always wonder how ex-Panthers feel when they've gone on to other teams how they remember their times here, Jon let us know. After announcing his retirement, he gave a very interesting quote about if he had any regrets...
"The only thing I wish I could have done - I dreamt often of being on the first team to win a championship for the Carolina Panthers. To date, it hasn’t happened. To do something first, I thought was really special and for me to play for the last expansion team, instead of following a legacy of greatness with some of the storied franchises, to do it first was something that was always on my mind. I would say that with everything, even the injuries, the ups and downs of an NFL career, that’s my biggest regret."
So while he didn't exactly say he still loved Carolina, he clearly still thinks about his time with the franchise. He isn't too upset about the injuries, and hopefully he will walk away with the game in decent shape. I will always be very thankful for Beason. He was a great player who's career was derailed by rare injuries and just never recovered. It's a strong reminder of just how punishing and harsh the game of football is. In less than a year, a player went from 25 years old, all pro and on top of the world, to a player constantly in the trainers room and getting pushed down the depth chart by rookies. So let Beason be both a lesson to appreciate what we have right now in some of our young players, and not to take what we have for granted. Knowing all that, we move forward into the 2016 NFL season and what awaits.