According to a new unconfirmed report, Andrew Lincoln is getting ready to leave The Walking Dead behind. After eight full seasons and at least a chunk of the upcoming season, the actor will be calling it quits in the post-apocalyptic world of walkers and human-on-human warfare. While there are still a great many unknowns in regards to how precisely this is going to play out or how exactly this decision came to be, The Walking Dead season 9 will be the last to feature Rick Grimes, according to a new report.

Warning: spoilers ahead for those who aren't caught up on The Walking Dead. This news has yet to be confirmed by Andrew Lincoln or AMC and, for that matter, it probably won't be until Rick Grimes' exit from the series actually plays out on screen. Still, it's being reported that Lincoln will appear in just a half-dozen episodes of The Walking Dead this season before calling it quits. The series has suffered major ratings declines in recent seasons and this is sure to serve as a major blow for fans who have actually been keeping up since the beginning, as Rick Grimes is one of very few characters remaining who was there from the start.

The Walking Dead season 8 finale served as something of a conclusion for the series in some ways, as it's been promised that season 9 will be bringing us something more fresh, almost like a soft reboot. Andrew Lincoln leaving is one way to freshen things up, for better or for worse. Lauren Cohan, who has also been with the show for a very long, is also going to appear in fewer episodes this season. She held out in order to negotiate a better contract for herself and, while those negotiations were happening, her show Whisky Cavalier was picked up by ABC. So she's going to be busy elsewhere. Does that mean Maggie could be parting ways with the show in the future as well?

Related: Walking Dead Showrunner Expects Maggie to Return in Season 10

At the present time, it's unclear if this is a story decision on AMC's part or if Andrew Lincoln is simply ready to move on. While The Walking Dead has been a tremendous opportunity for the actor, it's also very limiting. As the show's lead, he can't take on many other acting jobs and he surely has plenty of offers on the table. No matter whose decision it ultimately was, Lincoln will now be able to pursue other projects in the future. We've seen just how reactive the fanbase can be when Chandler Riggs' Carl Grimes was killed off last season. It's easy to imagine fans are going to have an even more intense reaction to this news.

So how is AMC planning to compensate for Andrew Lincoln's departure? Reportedly, they're going to offer Norman Reedus, who plays fan-favorite Daryl Dixon, a boatload of cash to not only remain on the series, but to take over as the lead. We'll have to see how that pans out, but for the time being, there's no indication that Reedus is also looking to make his exit. The Walking Dead season 9 is currently in production and makes its return to AMC this fall. We'll be sure to keep you up to date as more details on the situation are made available. This news comes to us courtesy of Collider.