With a new era of Buckeye strongmen entering the NFL, there are also a slew of former top draft picks out of Ohio State whose careers are starting to fade. Stars only shine so bright for so long, and some of the names synonymous with Ohio State on Sundays, have started facing the chopping block, and some are starting the final leg of their careers.
Longevity in the NFL is always the goal, but rarely the outcome. Injuries can become a mainstay with players and positions that take on a heavy workload or see a large number of snaps. Particularly with positions like lineman and defenders who rely on tackling play-after-play, long careers can depend entirely on how many or how frequently a player is injured. And with fresh legs, and young blood coming out of college every year, the risk/benefit analysis is continual.
Now that teams are ushering in their latest set of draft picks and undrafted free agents, they are taking a closer look at their rosters to see where they can trim the fat. Unfortunately, those decisions can result in some of the League's most popular or former stars landing on the chopping block with no where else to go.
The Steelers announced Thursday the release of former second-round pick, offensive tackle Mike Adams citing the reason as a failed physical. Adams spent the 2015 on the physically unable to perform list with a lingering back problem; his recovery after surgery didn't go as well as hoped, which may have lead to the team's dismissal. He started 20 of the 41 games played in Pittsburgh since he was drafted in 2012, but failed to live up to the 'starter' moniker the Steelers were hoping he'd earn.
Incoming Buckeye: Taylor Decker. The No. 16 overall draft pick in 2016 is headed to the Detroit Lions in hopes of being the next offensive tackle to find success in the NFL. His need will be immediate, as the Lions are hoping to build a line that can protect Matthew Stafford in the pocket and open up the offensive options -- especially with wideout legend Calvin Johnson retiring after last season.
After nine seasons with the Green Bay Packers, their No. 5 pick overall in 2006 linebacker A.J. Hawk was released ahead of the 2015 season. He signed with the Cincinnati Bengals, his home-state team, for just one year before being released during the shuffle of the 2016 free agency period. Hawk has yet to find another team interested in extending his career -- despite having missed only two games in his entire 10 year career. He's been one of the more successful Buckeyes in the NFL, with a career that includes 945 total tackles, 20 sacks, 33 passes defended and nine interceptions.
Incoming Buckeye: Darron Lee. While the No. 20 overall pick may not have the physicality of Hawk, the young linebacker has the speed and versatility that defenses are now looking for. The Jets will get to test Lee at both linebacker and safety as a dual-threat, and will quickly find out if his new attributes at the position can lead to a long career in the NFL.
Incoming Buckeye No. 2: Joshua Perry. More of the stereotypical linebacker like Hawk, Perry will be heading to the San Diego Chargers -- along with teammate Joey Bosa -- to try his hand at a pro career. As a leader on and off the field, he may not have a dynamic career, but he could have a very long one. So long as he gets some playing time under his belt early, he could be a fan favorite for a good portion of his career.
One of the most storied veterans to find himself without a roster spot heading into the 2016 season is 12-year strong safety Will Allen. After playing in Tampa Bay for six seasons, he became a staple among the crushing Steeler secondary for six seasons -- despite one year in Dallas -- even recording 13 starts and 810 (73.3%) defensive snaps in 2015. With injuries starting to take a toll, and his age certainly a factor, the Steelers decided not to re-sign the safety, which could signal the end of his long NFL career.
Incoming Buckeye: Vonn Bell. Taken in the second round by the New Orleans Saints, Bell could bring much needed athleticism to the secondary. The Saints have become a popular landing spot for Buckeyes, with the team drafting Michael Thomas just ahead of Bell, and signing James Laurinaitis in free agency. Bell just missed being on the same defense as the late Ohio State legend Will Smith, who retired a few seasons before his tragic death.