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Lee Smith makes retirement official

The 11-year-veteran is on to the next thing.

NFL: NOV 18 Patriots at Falcons Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Lee Smith flirted with retirement last offseason, but instead he wound up traded away from the Buffalo Bills and playing his final season with the Atlanta Falcons. We had seen social media posts after the final game of the Falcons’ season that indicated that Smith was going to retire for real this offseason, and now he’s made it official.

The 34-year-old caps off an 11 year career spent with the Bills, Raiders and Falcons, finishing with 73 catches for 523 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those stats don’t tell the full story, obviously, because Smith’s been known his entire career for his blocking, and that’s something he was excellent at up until the very end. That plus his reputation as a good guy and leader are probably what convinced the Falcons to trade for him this offseason. While Sean Payton’s surprise retirement is going to suck up all the oxygen in the room, the Falcons put together some nice pieces to celebrate Smith’s career.

Smith was a tough, talented blocking tight end throughout his career, and he filled that role capably for the Falcons this past season. Aside from that and a handful of nice catches, including a touchdown grab, Smith formed a fast bond with rookie tight end Kyle Pitts and appeared to be a mentor and friend. This quote has stuck with me all season:

We wish him well with whatever comes next, but you can bet that Smith’s struggles with and triumph over a family history of alcoholism and his desire to ensure others don’t live that struggle will be a part of his retirement plans.