Jordan Gross is hanging up his cleats after playing his entire 11-year career with the Carolina Panthers, as the offensive tackle is set to officially announce his retirement from the NFL on Wednesday, according to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer.
A first-round selection in the 2003 NFL Draft, Gross was a full-time starter for the Panthers right away, starting all but one game in his first six NFL seasons. After receiving the franchise tag from the Panthers in February 2008, Gross earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors in the subsequent season.
The Panthers gave Gross a six-year deal worth $60 million in 2009, which paid off with two more trips to the Pro Bowl in 2010 and 2013. Center Ryan Kalil is the only offensive lineman in franchise history to earn more Pro Bowl selections, as he was picked for his fourth trip in 2013.
James Dator of SB Nation's Panthers blog, Cat Scratch Reader, said that Gross is arguably the best offensive tackle in franchise history and his retirement is bad news for the team in 2014:
The loss is immeasurable for the organization. Carolina does not have any current plan at offensive tackle and this could be the worst complete offensive line the team has had in over a decade. This is a time the Panthers were poised to take a step forward, but instead they'll take three back unless general manager Dave Gettleman finds a way to solidify the line.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was sacked 43 times during the 2013 season, fifth-most in the NFL, but Gross was responsible for allowing only six of those sacks, according to Pro Football Focus.
Gross agreed to restructure his contract prior to the 2013 season, which made his contract set to automatically void this month. With free agency on the way, the Panthers reportedly wanted to bring back Gross for another season, although general manager Dave Gettleman said that the offensive tackle earned the right to spend his time with the decision.