For the first time since stepping off the UAB campus 12 years ago, Roddy White finds himself without a team, a paycheck and the certainty of a career. But he’s at peace with that. He has made and banked millions, he has five beautiful children, he’s building his dream home and there are obvious advantages to being without an NFL contract in June.
“Who wants to do OTAs anyway?” he said.
Not working right now is at least partly White’s choice. If the former Falcons wide receiver wanted a job today, he could have one. He has had opportunities, but the offers are from the wrong teams.
“When my agent and I went down the list and I saw the teams that really needed wide receivers, I was like, ‘Wow, I really don’t want to go there,’” White said. “I knew I couldn’t win with any of those teams. At this point of my career, I don’t want to be dragging my feet in Week 13 just to have an opportunity to be 4-10 next week.”
The Falcons’ all-time leading receiver, and one of their more popular players, was cut in March. There was an expectation he would immediately be picked up by a team where offenses are now run by former Falcons coaches — specifically Tampa Bay (coach Dirk Koetter) or Tennessee (coach Mike Mularkey, offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie).
White wouldn’t specify who made him offers or with whom he would sign, but he was clear about two things in our conversation:
• He will sign only with a team that he believes can contend for a Super Bowl, acknowledging that limits the field to “maybe six teams.”
• If that opportunity doesn’t come, he will retire.
How long will he wait before making that decision?
“I’ll let it go into the season, maybe Week 4 or 5,” he said. “If it doesn’t happen, I’ll be putting my cleats on a power line, just like Marshawn Lynch.”
Retiring is not his first choice. Few professional athletes ever really want their careers to end, especially when they believe they can still perform at a high level and when they’re coming off a season when they were buried in weekly game plans.
But about retirement: “I’ve literally prepared myself for it. I’ve talked to my financial adviser and he said I’m fine if I decide to quit. But I’ve always played this game to win a Super Bowl. I thought I’d get with the Falcons and we’d win a championship and everything I wanted in my career would be fulfilled. I’ve been on good teams and bad teams, but at this point I don’t have the energy to be on teams that can’t win now.”
If White limits his choices to projected title contenders, the list could New England, Pittsburgh, Carolina, Green Bay, Denver, Seattle, Arizona and Minnesota.
He said he is staying in shape. At any point a contender could lose a receiver to injury or re-evaluate its depth chart, and maybe his phone will ring.
White: “I’m not going to be sitting on the couch and put myself in a position to fail. I want to be Jerry Rice in his prime.”
The past three seasons have been “rocky,” to use his word. He was productive in 2013 and ’14 (143 catches, 1,632 yards, 10 touchdowns) but often played hurt, missed five games with injuries and the Falcons spiraled to finishes of 4-12 and 6-10. He was frustrated last season when he was de-emphasized in the new offense implemented by Kyle Shanahan and has said “the bridge just broke down” between the two. But speculation about personality clashes between them was overstated.
He wanted to stay with the Falcons but said, “I’m good with them. I’m not bitter or anything.”
Asked if he believed the Falcons would improve next season, White laughed and said, “I hope so because I don’t think Arthur Blank will be in a good mood going to a new stadium if they don’t make the playoffs. Selling seats in the new dome is going to be hard work if the team goes 8-8 or 7-9.”
For now, he is focused on his five young children, his under-construction palace near the Mall of Georgia (“This is costing me a fortune”) and his annual football camp for youths next week in his hometown of Charleston, S.C. White long has been about giving back through the camp and his Roddy White Keep The Faith Foundation.
Unemployment has its benefits, he said.
“I’ve had a chance to chase my kids around and go to all of their events,” he said. “They’re keeping me busy in the summer. My oldest son is 10 years old now and he asks me every week, ‘Where are you going to play football now?’”
For 11 years, that was an easy answer.