When healthy, there is little doubt that San Diego Chargers star center Nick Hardwick has been one of the best interior offensive linemen in the league over the past several seasons, and his 2013 campaign was no exception. Leading an offensive line that was finally able to adequately protect Philip Rivers, Hardwick was a force as both a run blocker and pass blocker. Rivers had a bounce-back season and Ryan Mathews finally broke out, and Hardwick was a key part of both big seasons. A highly efficient Chargers offense led by better coaching (Mike McCoy, Ken Whisenhunt, and Frank Reich) and better blocking (King Dunlap, D.J. Fluker, and Hardwick) helped overcome a pass defense that was very spotty overall, and Hardwick was definitely a solidifying, veteran force.
Looking at Hardwick’s production last season and the success of the Chargers overall, it doesn’t seem like the 32-year-old is in a position to retire. But then you look at all he’s accomplished and all of the concussions and severe injuries that he has taken in his career, and then you get the feeling that Hardwick could indeed decide to call it quits before the final year of his contract.
According to Michael Gehlken of the U-T San Diego, Hardwick will decide on his NFL future this offseason and could end up deciding to retire despite an appearance in the AFC Divisional Round and multiple accolades following a very successful season. He’s set to make $3.4 million, and I think he’ll end up coming back for that final season. But Hardwick’s decision to continue playing in this league is very much in question, and his retirement would certainly be felt by the Chargers on and off the field. Hopefully he decides to stay for one more year, but we would all definitely understand if Hardwick decides that he’s accomplished enough in this league and respect if he chooses to call it quits.