Playing for your original team’s rivals has to go one of two ways for a player. There are those guys who will revel in the extra hate and intensity provided by signing for the perceived enemy, while there are others who are professional enough to see the whole situation as just another step forward in a playing career. As a fan it is obvious how to handle the first type of player, but the second can cause differences of opinion within a fan base.
Also interesting within this situation is a player’s motivation. Perhaps the current team gave the play a low ball offer in free agency and the rival offered significantly more money? In that situation it would be hard to turn down the payday no matter how you felt about your current team. Maybe the rival team is one or two players short of a Super Bowl challenge, while your current team is mired in the middle of a 10 or 12 year rebuilding project. Again this would be a tough deal to turn down and walk away from, and many NFLers have indeed crossed to the “dark side” in order to chase a ring late in their careers.
On the other hand maybe it is as simple as the player and the team or coach not getting along. These are the ones which tend to look the worst to fans as the betrayal is played out in the media week after week before the ugly, and obvious, split occurs. In these situations the player involved is often seen as slightly too happy to be appearing for the rivals, maybe making an extra big deal out of a play or appearing on talk shows leading up to the game to rub that salt into the wound just a little deeper.
With so many angles to look at it won’t be easy to narrow this list to just a top ten, but that is exactly what we are going to try to do here with a top ten list of NFL players who turned out for their rivals.
10. Adam Vinatieri – Patriots to Colts
As the only kicker, and the only former Amsterdam Admiral, on this list, you know Adam Vinatieri has to be something special. Vinatieri is the first kicker to have won four Super Bowls, three with the Patriots and one with the Colts. He played for both teams during the years when Brady versus Manning was THE rivalry in the NFL, quite a feat for the two quarterbacks considering they weren’t even playing in the same division. The Yankton, South Dakota native is still going strong for Indianapolis at the grand old age of 42 and with Andrew Luck now throwing darts for the Colts there is every chance he could still add one more Super Bowl ring to his collection before hanging up his cleats.
9. Jared Allen – Vikings to Bears
After a disappointing first year in Chicago defensive end Jared Allen will be looking to pick up his game in 2015. The country boy who has made a living getting after quarterbacks had just 5.5 sacks in 2014 after signing with the Bears from the Vikings in a deal worth $32 million. Part of the reason for this loss in production was a bout of pneumonia at the beginning of the season which saw Allen lose 18 pounds , weight he would struggle to put back on in a healthy way during the year. With the Vikings, Allen was an absolute monster, once compiling 22 sacks in a season and never having less than 11 sacks in any given year. If he gets back to that kind of form then making the Vikings pay for not paying him will be on his agenda twice a year.
8. DeSean Jackson – Eagles to Redskins
It’s hard to call DeSean Jackson the traitor- the Eagles were the ones to cut him after all- but nonetheless, it must have stung Eagles fans to see one of the most exciting players in their history burn them this past season. Jackson caught nine passes for 243 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles this past season, averaging 27 yards per catch. To make matters worse, the Eagles were eliminated from postseason contention with a Week 16 loss to Washington.
Something tells you Jackson picked Washington of all suitors so he could stick it to his former team as often as possible.
7. Julius Peppers – Bears to Packers
Julius Peppers made his name as a sack machine for the Carolina Panthers where his patented spin move was used to devastating effect, blowing past offensive tackles and getting to the quarterback. After signing a six year deal with the Bears in 2010, Peppers continued his habit of making big plays at big times, putting up 37.5 sacks in 64 games in Chicago. The problem here was that Peppers’ cap number was simply too high and the Bears had to release him after attempts to make a trade fell flat. Peppers of course decided that the best destination was hated rival Green Bay and in his first year in Wisconsin he helped the Packers to the NFC Title Game while the Bears finished the year with a 5-11 record.
6. DeMarco Murray – Cowboys to Eagles
The most recent addition to this list is a free agent signing which occurred around a week ago. DeMarco Murray was the NFL’s leading rusher in 2014 and was looking for a big time contract in Dallas. While the desire appeared to be there on both sides, the Cowboys and Murray could not reach an agreement, perhaps due to weariness from Dallas given Murray’s massive workload last fall. The division rival Eagles meanwhile were massively short of running back help having traded LeSean McCoy and having Frank Gore back out of a deal at the last minute. Suddenly everything dropped into place for Murray, as Chip Kelly has a one cut power runner to toy with in his explosive offensive system.
5. Neil Smith – Chiefs to Broncos
Neil Smith was one of two freak athletes, the other was Derrick Thomas, who the Chiefs built their fearsome defense around in the 1990’s. Coming out of Nebraska, Smith was a 6-foot-4, 260 pounder who had a wingspan of over seven feet and who ran a 4.55 forty yard dash. With those kind of stats it was no wonder Kansas City moved from third to second in the 1988 NFL Draft to acquire his services.
Smith spent most of the 90’s with the Chiefs, being frustrated year after year by an offense which couldn’t match the skill level of the defense. When he signed with Denver in 1997 it was to join another veteran, John Elway, in a quest for rings. The six time Pro Bowler stuck it to the Chiefs by helping the Broncos win back to back Super Bowl titles.
4. Darrelle Revis – Jets to Patriots to Jets
Darrelle Revis gets a special boost on this list for not only joining one rival from another, but then doing it again in reverse right after winning a Super Bowl title. In 2015 Revis Island will be in the defensive backfield of the New York Jets, a rejuvenated bunch who will look to the former Patriot for leadership and stability at the corner position. The interesting thing about this signing is that Tom Brady has had trouble with Revis in the past, while now the cornerback knows all of Brady’s secrets having played with and practiced against him for a full year. This story should be one that dominates the NFL headlines this fall if the two teams are as competitive as most expects seem to think they will be.
3. Terrell Owens – Eagles to Cowboys
Terrell Owens’ move from Philadelphia to Dallas makes this list because of how TO spent his latter days in the City of Brotherly Love. In April 2005 Owens hired a new agent in a bid to have his contract renegotiated after an outstanding 2004 season which saw him average a touchdown catch per game before picking up an injury. The messy contract dispute which followed included Owens blaming a “tired” Donovan McNabb for the Eagles Super Bowl loss a year prior and Owens wanting to play some summer league basketball. Owens spent most of the year deactivated before signing for the Cowboys after Philly released the disgruntled wide out.
2. Marcus Allen – Raiders to Chiefs
In one of the very first moves to a division rival, Marcus Allen left the Oakland Raiders via free agency in 1993 and joined the Kansas City Chiefs. It is possible that after 11 seasons in Oakland either Allen had worn out his welcome or that the Raiders just believed his career was at an end. Instead the versatile running back carried on for five more seasons in the red and gold of Kansas City, putting up over 3,600 yards rushing and 44 rushing touchdowns as part of the committee approach we see often in today’s NFL. One thing you can be sure of is that it must have cut late Raiders owner Al Davis deep every time he saw Allen dive over the pile in trademark fashion for a Kansas City score.
1. Brett Favre – Packers to Vikings
Could it really have been anyone else?
Brett Favre went from the ultimate hero in the football mad, and football only, city of Green Bay, to the ultimate villain by signing for the division rival Minnesota Vikings on his quest for one last Super Bowl ring. After a mock retirement from the New York Jets which lasted all of three weeks, Favre came back at the age of 39 for a two year stint. He became the first player in NFL history to defeat all 32 franchises when he beat the Packers during the season and showed that age is only mental by leading the Vikings to a 12-4 record and an NFC Championship game appearance.
Favre will be returning to Green Bay in 2015 to have his jersey retired and be inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. The three time NFL MVP will most likely be cheered raucously on the occasion, proving that time does indeed even heal the deepest wounds.
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