Shawne Merriman announces his retirement

Brian McIntyre

Shawne Merriman, a 28-year-old three-time Pro Bowl linebacker who was set to be an unrestricted free agent next Tuesday, announced on his website on Tuesday that he was retiring from the National Football League.

"After a lengthy discussion with my agent, family and team, I have officially decided to put in my retirement papers today. My retirement from the game I love so much and from the game that has brought me so many opportunities on and off the field has been decided with great thought for my future on and off of the field," Merriman wrote.

"I retire today not because I don't feel I can go out there and still play the game at a very high level, I am retiring because I want to retire on my own terms and leave while I know I can still physically play the game. I am stepping back to pursue other great opportunities that have been afforded me.

[Also: Can the Kansas City Chiefs turn it around quick?]

"I want to thank all my fans around the country. I want to thank the San Diego Chargers and the Buffalo Bills for their support during my time at each club. I feel truly blessed to have been part of the NFL and to have had the opportunity of a lifetime. I am excited to pursue my other career opportunities and look forward to what is on the horizon for me. I will continue to train with some of the guys not because of football but it's a part of my Lifestyle."

The Chargers selected Merriman with the No. 12 overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft. The former Maryland standout made an immediate impact, earning Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors after posting 10 sacks in 15 games, numbers that earned him NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Though he was suspended for the first four games of the 2006 season for violating the league's policy against performance-enhancing drugs, Merriman led the NFL with 17 sacks and was once again named to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams. Merriman had 12.5 sacks and made a third trip to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro squad in 2007, which would be the last season he would produce at an elite level.

Merriman missed all but one game in 2008 after tearing two knee ligaments and hobbled through the 2009 season with a foot injury. Merriman injured his calf in 2010 and, after being placed on injured reserve, was granting his release by the Chargers. The Buffalo Bills claimed Merriman off waivers in early November, but he aggravated his calf injury just minutes into his first practice with the team and did not play for the remainder of the season.

Following the 2010 season, the Bills signed Merriman to a two-year, $10.5 million extension that included $4.75 million in guaranteed money. Merriman started five games and had one sack for the Bills in 2011 before he was placed on injured reserve due to an Achilles' injury. The Bills released Merriman last August, but would re-sign the veteran midway after the season started. Merriman appeared in 10 games, making one start and notching one sack, the 42.5, and perhaps last, of his career.

Memorable Moments from Yahoo! Sports:

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
Former Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson could emerge as NFL draft-day surprise
MLB should sprint, not jog, to full instant replay
Watch: Playoff concerns for Warriors, Knicks
Watch: Teams that could burst NCAA bubbles