Everybody thought that Tom Brady would be on the New England Patriots forever. However, after 20 seasons, he finally ended his time in Boston and moved to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where it looks like he’ll finish his career. Meanwhile, Philip Rivers recently left the Chargers for the Indianapolis Colts after 16 seasons.
There is always something strange about seeing long-serving stars like these leave one iconic uniform for another. They do so because their franchise has pushed them out for a younger player, or because they want one last massive contract. But a selfish part of us wishes that they just stayed with their first team until the end. So today, we’ll look at 25 NFL stars who sadly ended their careers with another team via The Spun. Check out the list below.
25. Tony Dorsett
An 11-season veteran with the Dallas Cowboys, Dorsett holds a special place in the hearts of their fans. The running back entered the draft after a Heisman-winning season and took the NFL by storm. He went on to win the Super Bowl and made four Pro Bowl appearances.
There’s nothing quite like success to endear yourself to fans. Meanwhile, he also got them off of their seats as he rushed for over 1,000 yards in eight of his first nine seasons. It looked like he was unstoppable. Finally, the Cowboys traded him to the Broncos before the 34-year-old ended his career after a single season in Denver.
George had an excellent career with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans and played for the franchise for eight of his nine seasons in the NFL. His first five seasons were particularly good as he rushed for almost 1,300 each year. The four-time Pro Bowler led the league in rushing in 2000.
However, his number began to drop immediately after the best year of his career. Even though he rushed for over 1,000 yards in all but one, his productivity just wasn’t the same. The Titans traded him to the Cowboys because they weren’t feeling sentimental. George only started eight games before ending his career.
When you think of Reed, you automatically associate him with the Baltimore Ravens. Reed spent 11 seasons in the Ravens’ purple and was one of the most popular players on their roster. Next, a Super Bowl win in 2012 solidified his status as a franchise legend. He had earned it.
Selected for the Pro Bowl nine times, Reed was also the 2004 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. However, he decided not to end his career with the Ravens. An injury-battered Reed chased one last big contract with the Houston Texans. He split 2013 between the Texans and the Jets because he was no longer the same force.
Alexander spent eight seasons with the Seattle Seahawks and set all kinds of records with the team. At his best, he was truly brilliant, but he suffered a severe decline in his last couple years. Selected for the Pro Bowl three times, Alexander was a tremendous athlete.
2005 was a phenomenal year for Alexander. He won the NFL MVP award after leading the league in rushing yards. Needless to say, his crazy records made him a very popular figure in Seattle. But he had a major drop-off in 2007 before an abysmal final season with the Washington Redskins. He should have ended it with the Seahawks.
It feels like forever since the New York Jets were actually any good, but ‘Broadway Joe’ brought them a lot of joy back in the day. An incredible character with a penchant for outrageous fur coats, as well as a brilliant quarterback, he steered them to success in Super Bowl III.
Namath played in five Pro Bowls and became a true Jets icon. Towards the end of his career, the ghost of Namath joined the Los Angeles Rams after 12 seasons in New York. However, he was a shadow of his former self. In short, injuries took their toll on his body and he should have ended his career when he left the Jets.
Houston Oilers fans still speak fondly of their old hero Campbell. A true icon from his time as a Longhorn and then with the Oilers, he was a phenomenal running back. The 1975 NFL MVP award winner made the Pro Bowl five times and set all kinds of league and franchise records.
Campbell led the league in rushing yards three times and was one of the Oilers’ greatest players. But he moved to the New Orleans Saints for his last two seasons. But this was a bad move because he was no longer the same physical force and should have ended things earlier.
McNair spent 10 years with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans and achieved several fantastic accolades throughout that time period. The 2003 NFL MVP award winner also made the Pro Bowl three times. Needless to say, he was a franchise favorite throughout his lengthy tenure.
However, his time there ended in messy circumstances. A couple of injuries severely disrupted his last two seasons with the Titans. The franchise reacted by locking him out of their rehab facilities to avoid the potential of a massive payout. In the end, they traded him to the Ravens where ended his career after two seasons.
After playing for the Memphis Showboats in the USFL, White finally found his way to the NFL. He spent a few solid years with the Eagles before a move to the Packers where he should have ended his career. A colossus in Green Bay, White even helped them to an iconic Super Bowl win.
White made the Pro Bowl an impressive 13 times in his career and was also the two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year. After all of this success, he finally made the decision to retire. But after a year with his feet up, he decided to come back and played an unexceptional season with the Carolina Panthers in 2000.
A tremendous dual-threat back, Craig was the first rush and receive for 1,000 yards in the same season. This was a massive achievement at the time and still, only two players have accomplished it. Meanwhile, Craig helped the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowls during his eight seasons with the franchise.
It’s very easy to forget that he also featured for the Raiders as well as the Vikings. Unlike some of the other players on this list, he wasn’t terrible for either of those teams. But there was definitely something jarring about seeing him in a uniform other than the 49ers’ red and gold.
Imagine the feeling of scoring a game-winning touchdown. Now step it up a level and dream that it was for the Super Bowl. Bruce achieved this incredible feat when he caught a 73-yard pass. This is probably his most iconic moment with the Rams, but he had many with ‘The Greatest Show On Turf.’
Sadly, despite his brilliance for the Rams, he departed in unsavory circumstances. In short, he wanted a pay raise and they said no. So the Rams traded him to San Francisco where he played for two seasons before he ended his career. It never looked right seeing him in the 49ers’ uniform.
When Reed moved to the Washington Redskins, he appeared to be a totally different player. Unfortunately, it was in a good way because he ended his career with a whimper. But he was exceptional for the Bills for a fantastic 15 seasons in Buffalo. In short, he was tremendous.
Overall, he demonstrated incredible loyalty to Buffalo. He also made the Pro Bowl for seven consecutive seasons as part of their team. Furthermore, he played a defining role in ‘The Comeback,’ one of the most iconic NFL games of all-time. He should have ended his career before moving to the Capital.
The Buffalo Bills drafted Thomas in 1988 and he almost ended his career with them but for an ill-fated season with the Miami Dolphins. Thomas was part of the Bills’ teams that made four successive Super Bowls. Unfortunately for the running back, the team lost each of them.
It was a pity for the Hall of Famer because he deserved a ring for his efforts in blue. The 1991 NFL MVP was a staggeringly talented player and it’s just a shame that he performed so badly for the Dolphins. In the end, he did the whole ceremonial contract and retirement thing with the Bills but it would have been nice if he’ never would have left.
A member of the ‘Greatest Show on Turf,’ Holts holds a special place in the hearts of the good people of St. Louis. They might not have a franchise anymore but they have some great memories. A magnificent wide receiver, he racked up 1,300 yards for a record six seasons in a row. Those are crazy numbers.
Of course, all good things come to an end and Holt finally left the Rams for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He signed a $20 million contract with them but didn’t do much for them and went to the Patriots. He made no appearances for them because of an injury. It never looked right seeing him in Jaguars’ uniform.
With all of Simpson’s legal drama and murder cases, it’s easy to forget that he was also a brilliant football player. He played for the Buffalo Bills for nine seasons before ending his career in San Francisco after two years with the 49ers. But it was with the former where he was at his best.
Simpson is an all-time great running back. He holds the amazing distinction of being the only player ever to rush for over 2,000 yards in the old 14-game format. It’s almost a shame that he didn’t get to retire with the Bills. But he cashed in and spent his two final seasons in the Golden State.
One of the greatest running backs in NFL history, Tomlinson was also a loyal servant to the San Diego Chargers. Overall, he spent nine seasons in California. Then he moved to the New York Jets where he ended his career after two seasons. But it was his time in San Diego where he made his name.
Tomlinson was truly elite and demonstrated this in 2006 by winning the NFL MVP award. Furthermore, he was the league’s rushing leader for two seasons in a row, as nobody was able to stop him. Selected five times for the Pro Bowl, Tomlinson retired after a ceremonial re-signing with the Chargers.
It’s ironic but the same thing that happened to Brett Favre may happen to his successor Aaron Rodgers after the Green Bay Packers drafted Jordan Love. The Wisconsin franchise has had incredible quarterbacks throughout its history, like Bart Starr and Arnie Herber. But they’re merciless when it comes to succession plans.
So Favre discovered when he tried to come back out of retirement after 16 seasons and a Super Bowl with the Packers. However, they put their faith in Rodgers and a bitter Favre moved to pastures new. A season with the Jets followed before he enraged his old Packer fans by spending two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings.
Time is never kind to sports stars and that proved to be the case for Rice. The 49ers star spent 16 seasons in San Francisco before he moved to Oakland. This came about after the emergence of Terrell Owens pushed the aging legend to one side. Finally, he ended his career with the Seattle Seahawks.
It’s a pity that the greatest wide receiver ever didn’t end his career with the team where he had his greatest moments. A three-time Super Bowl winner, Rice also made the Pro Bowl an incredible 13 times. Meanwhile, he holds the record for most points scored by a non-kicker in the NFL with a stunning 1,256.
The former Eagles quarterback was a true hero in Philadelphia. He wore their green for a sizzling 11 seasons and brought them to a Super Bowl finals. Furthermore, he added six Pro Bowl appearances to his record during his time as one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.
However, in 2010, the Eagles traded the aging McNabb to the Washington Redskins where he stayed for a season. Washington traded him to the Minnesota Vikings where he finally ended his career. It would have been nice if he could have retired as an Eagle as that was the franchise that held his loyalty.
You’ve got to respect players who choose to spend the bulk of their careers with a weak franchise, even if they’re good enough to play for a Super Bowl contender. Taylor was very loyal to the team that drafted him. He spent nine years with the Jacksonville Jaguars before two with the Patriots.
Taylor made the Pro Bowl once as a Jaguar but that doesn’t paint the full picture. He’s a franchise legend and if he played for a more fashionable team for longer, he would have played in more Pro Bowl games. After leaving the Patriots he signed a one-day contract with his old team so he could retire as a Jaguar.
A true NFL legend, Harris spent 13 seasons in the NFL. He established himself as one of the greatest fullbacks ever throughout 12 years with the Pittsburgh Steelers. In sum, he should have ended his career there but didn’t. He moved for a year to Seahawks where he didn’t do much during his single season in Seattle.
Harris helped the Steelers to Super Bowl glory four times through an incredible dynasty in the ’70s. He was also the Super Bowl MVP in his first appearance in the showpiece event. Needless to say, he entered the Hall of Fame after his retirement. It’s just a pity he didn’t get to end his career as a one-franchise man with the Steelers.
One of the Kansas City Chiefs’ most reliable performers for 12 seasons, he then moved to the Atlanta Hawks for five. Even though that’s quite a chunk of time and they wear similar colors, it was still strange to see him in another team’s uniform. Especially when fans associate him so strongly with the Chiefs.
Gonzalez is one of the greatest tight ends of all-time and holds several NFL records. Selected for the Pro Bowl for 10 consecutive seasons while with the Chiefs, his consistency was unbelievable. Even as he got older, he was still effective and made the Pro Bowl four times with the Hawks.
One of the greatest running backs of all-time, Smith is a Dallas Cowboys’ icon. Smith become an NFL and Super MVP when he won the Super Bowl winner in 1993. He also led the NFL in rushing yards. In sum, he was the only player to obtain these four landmarks in the same season, a staggering achievement.
Smith was the Cowboys’ star man for 13 seasons before he left for pastures new. It was bizarre to see him in an Arizona Cardinals’ uniform after so long in the white and blue of America’s Team. In retrospect, it was jarring as seeing Tom Brady wearing the opposite of what we normally expect. But he played for two seasons in Arizona.
Not many players had a career like Unitas. A three-time NFL champion and then a Super Bowl champion following the league’s merger, his record is glittering. Furthermore, Unitas was extremely loyal to the Baltimore Colts and played for the team for an amazing 17 years.
Then he joined the San Diego Chargers and his career kind of fizzled out. Unitas only made five appearances for the Californian franchise before his career ended. However, the 10-time Pro Bowl selection was far beyond his best. It’s a shame he didn’t retire in Baltimore where the fans adored him.
Manning’s name is synonymous with the Indianapolis Colts. He helped bring a Super Bowl to the team and was also their star man during his 11 years with the team. It’s also slightly unfair to criticize him for leaving the Colts for the Broncos because he had spent four years in Denver when his career ended there.
Of course, it was ultimately injuries that ended his Colts’ career. They were unable to wait for him and drafted Andrew Luck. Then Manning became a free agent and several teams pressed for his signing. In the end, he won Super Bowl 50 with them in his final season as a professional.
Montana spent two years with the Kansas City Chiefs, but it never looked right. During 14 years with the San Francisco 49ers, he established himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time. To sum up, it feels like a pity that he ended his career with a different team.
‘Joe Cool’ was a four-time Super Bowl champion in San Francisco and was also a three-time Super Bowl MVP. In short, this superstar won almost every individual award under the sun, from Offensive Player of the Year to two MVP awards. However, the emergence of Steve Young eventually forced him out before retirement.