Free agency and trades have made even some of the best players in National Football League history switch teams, usually late in their respective careers. As a result, we've seen plenty of NFL legends join forces over the years, whether it was in the prime of one, both, or none of the pair's careers.
For most, a change of scenery doesn't end well. A guy like defensive end Richard Dent bounced around at the end of his career with little success, much like quarterback Johnny Unitas and wide receiver Tim Brown.
For every sad story of an over-the-hill legend playing out the string in a depressing fashion there are some positive stories. Running back Marcus Allen had a resurgence with the Kansas City Chiefs late in his career, earning him the Comeback Player of the Year award. Fellow running back Emmitt Smith looked washed up in his first season with the Arizona Cardinals in 2003, but quickly rebounded the following season to total over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns.
Some of the best veterans we know today who are bound for the Hall of Fame have played with these legends. Larry Fitzgerald joined forces with Smith after entering the league in 2004 but was still green. Running back Frank Gore played with two legendary receivers during his career, although both were past their prime.
We get so caught up in the great moments in NFL history that we forget some of the best players in league history played together. Granted, it wasn't a memorable pairing but is interesting nonetheless.
Don't worry if you've forgotten because we're going to break it down right here, right now.
15 Frank Gore and Randy Moss
Isaac Bruce wasn't the only Hall of Fame receiver Gore played with. In 2012, Moss signed on to play for the Niners in his final season in the NFL. It certainly wasn't his best, as Moss had just 28 receptions for 434 yards and three touchdowns. Gore was in the prime of his career at that time and earned over 1,400 yards from scrimmage and nine total touchdowns.
The 2012 season ended with the 49ers making it to the Super Bowl and it was the second of three consecutive seasons San Fran made it to at least the NFC Championship game. The Niners lost the big game to the Ravens after a furious comeback fell just short, following the infamous power outage in the Superdome. Moss caught two passes for 41 yards in Super Bowl XLVII, including a 32-yard gain. Gore had a fantastic showing with 101 yards on the ground and a touchdown in the losing effort.
14 Warren Moon and Tony Gonzalez
Many people remember Moon as a legendary quarterback for the Houston Oilers, but he suited up for the Chiefs in 1999 and 2000. Moon came to Kansas City and was the backup to quarterback Elvis Grbac. In two seasons, Moon played in just three games and decided to finally retire in 2001.
During Moon's time in KC, Gonzalez was working his way to being one of the best tight ends in NFL history and had his breakout season in 2000 while Moon was still there. Gonzalez would total 1,203 yards through the air that season, the second-highest output of his career. Neither of the two seasons the pair spent together resulted in the playoffs, but Gonzalez is Canton-bound when he becomes eligible and Moon is already gracing the halls of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
13 Ray Lewis and Warren Sapp
Two of the greatest defensive players in league history were once teammates, albeit in college. The linebacker Lewis and defensive tackle Sapp were both members of the Miami Hurricanes, or the "U" as the program's players like to call it.
It wasn't a wise idea to run the ball up the middle on Miami in the early nineties, as both Lewis and Sapp were elite defenders up the gut. Both also played with former WWE star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson at Miami. Sapp and Johnson played the same position, defensive tackle.
Lewis and Sapp both went on to be first-round picks and were each a vital piece for two of the greatest defenses in NFL history; Sapp with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002 and Lewis with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000. Both of those teams ended up as Super Bowl champions.
12 Andre Johnson and Ed Reed
Reed's time with the Houston Texans was an unmitigated disaster and didn't help a Texans roster that included Johnson. He played in just seven games and didn't even make it through the season before being released. Reed wasn't the only disaster, though, as star running back Arian Foster also saw his season come to an end early due to injury.
Despite the rest of the team completely tanking, Johnson was one of the lone bright spots for the Texans that season. He had one of the best campaigns of his career with 1,407 yards and five touchdowns. Sadly for Houston, the team's season didn't end anywhere near as well. The Texans finished with a dreadful 2-14 record and found themselves at the top of the draft the following year.
11 LaDanian Tomlinson and Darrelle Revis
Revis might not be the shutdown corner he once was, but my what a shutdown corner he used to be. In his prime, Revis was a lock to stop any top receiver in the league and he finally got his hands on a Super Bowl trophy as a member of the 2014 New England Patriots. He returned to Gang Green in 2015 and hasn't been the same since.
Revis was already established when Tomlinson joined the team in 2010, his first of two seasons with the Jets and the last in which he was actually valuable. Tomlinson gained nearly 1,300 yards from scrimmage in 2010 and then proceeded to fall off a cliff in 2011. The Jets made their second straight AFC Championship Game in 2010 but failed to even make the playoffs the following season. Prior to the 2012 campaign, Tomlinson had called it a career and moved on to television.
10 Joe Montana and O.J. Simpson
A young guy named Montana from Notre Dame entered the league as a third-round pick for the Niners in 1979 when Simpson became a member of the team. Although Montana played in all 16 regular season games that year, he threw just 23 passes. He didn't become the full-time starter until the 1980 season.
Arguably one of the best running backs in NFL history, Simpson's time had come to retire, but he decided to give it one more go. He joined the Niners in 1978 and played in 23 games over two seasons, just barely totaling 1,000 yards on the ground combined.
San Francisco was abysmal during the 1979 season when these two legends shared the same team. The Niners went 2-14 and wouldn't see the playoffs again until 1980 when San Fran became Super Bowl champions with Montana at the helm.
9 Frank Gore and Isaac Bruce
Gore, who is in the top-10 in career rushing yards, and Bruce, who is ranked 4th all-time in receiving yards, were on the same offense in 2008 and 2009. Bruce was fairly productive in his first season in San Francisco with 835 yards and seven touchdowns, however, his second season wasn't as successful after playing in just 10 games.
Gore was an absolute stud in those two seasons. He notched two of his eight seasons with 1,000 yards on the ground and scorched opposing defenses for 21 total touchdowns. Ultimately both seasons didn't go so well for the Niners with a combined record of 15-17 and two straight seasons without the playoffs. Gore is still tearing things up in the league and is on his way to the Hall of Fame. Bruce retired following the 2009 campaign.
8 Cris Carter and Jason Taylor
Before hanging up his cleats for good, Carter played one season in Miami and joined a roster that included an all-time great defensive end, Jason Taylor.
For Carter, he was merely a role player at this point in his career and was actually lured out of retirement by the Dolphins from his TV gig on HBO's Inside the NFL. He only corralled eight passes for 66 yards and one score in five games and missed some time due to a kidney ailment. He was best known for two things in Miami: a great, one-handed touchdown catch and a crucial drop in the end zone against his former team, the Vikings.
Taylor, on the other hand, was in the midst of his best season as a pro with 18.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles. After a season that saw the Dolphins fail to make the playoffs with a nine-win season, Carter retired and Taylor played on for almost another decade as an elite defensive player.
7 Larry Fitzgerald and Emmitt Smith
After a long and successful career with the Dallas Cowboys, Smith moved on to play for the Arizona Cardinals for the last two seasons of his career. He was actually productive in his second year with the Cardinals - the final one of his career - with over 1,000 yards of total offense and nine rushing touchdowns.
While the veteran running back was going out with a bang, a young rookie by the name of Larry Fitzgerald was just getting his feet wet. Fitz was drafted No. 3 overall by Arizona prior to that season and caught 58 balls for 780 yards and eight touchdowns. Sadly for Arizona, neither of these two players were in their prime or else it could have been quite the combo. The Cards finished 6-10 and were on the outside looking in for the playoffs.
6 Dan Fouts and Johnny Unitas
Two of the very best at the quarterback position in NFL history became teammates in 1973 when Unitas was traded to the Chargers from the Colts. Both players were on opposite paths, however, as Unitas was on his last leg in the league and Fouts was just entering as a rookie after the Chargers drafted him in the third round of the 1973 NFL Draft.
Unitas started in five games for San Diego that season and was clearly not the same quarterback. He finished with 471 yards and three touchdowns to seven picks, and his completion percentage was a pathetic 44.7. Unitas had a 1-3 record as the team's starter and was replaced by Fouts, who eventually ended up in Canton with Unitas for his efforts. Unitas and Fouts are widely considered two of the best signal-callers in league history, with Fouts ranking 14th on the all-time list in passing yards and Unitas coming in at 18th.
5 Tim Brown and Derrick Brooks
When you think of Brown, you think of the Raiders, a team he spent almost his entire career with. That is until 2004 when Brown joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played on the same team as Hall of Fame linebacker, Derrick Brooks. Unfortunately for then head coach John Gruden, the Bucs finished 5-11 and missed the playoffs for a second straight season.
Brown was a shell of his former self, a harsh realization that began to take shape after Brown failed to reach 1,000 yards in 2002 for the first time in nine seasons. Brown recorded just 24 receptions for 200 yards in 15 games and only found paydirt once in his last season in the NFL. Meanwhile, Brooks was his elite self and compiled 137 combined tackles, three sacks, and one interception.
4 Richard Dent and Marshall Faulk
In his second-to-last season in the NFL, Dent joined the Indianapolis Colts and was a teammate of Faulk's in 1996. It was a revival of sorts for Dent's career after he played in just five games combined the past two seasons. He finished with 6.5 sacks and 15 combined tackles. As for Faulk, the running back compiled over 1,000 total yards in 13 contests.
The Colts ended up with a 9-7 record, earning them a playoff berth. It was a short trip, however, as Indy lost in the Wild Card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dent would play one more season in the NFL as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles before retiring following the 1997 season. Faulk left after the 1998 season and spent the remainder of his career with the St. Louis Rams. It was in St. Louis where Faulk would win his only Super Bowl title.
3 Richard Dent and Deion Sanders
Neither Sanders nor Dent lasted long in San Francisco, but the legendary pair of defenders did play with one another in 1994 while with the Niners. Sanders played in 14 regular season games and had 44 combined tackles and six picks, three of which were taken to the house. Dent, on the other hand, played in just two contests that season due to injury and notched just two sacks and eight combined tackles.
The 1994 campaign ended up being special for the Niners. After going 13-3 to earn a first-round bye and taking out the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears in the playoffs, San Fran won Super Bowl XXIX versus the San Diego Chargers, 49-26. Sanders notched an interception and was even targeted in the passing game, although he didn't have a catch. Dent played in one playoff game for the Niners, recording just one combined tackle.
2 Brett Favre and Randy Moss
Favre joined the Minnesota Vikings to much fanfare in 2009 after leaving the division rival Green Bay Packers in 2007 and failing miserably with the New York Jets in 2008. He was joined by Moss in 2010 after the future Hall of Fame wideout was traded to the Vikings from the New England Patriots. It appeared to be a match made in heaven given both players' historic numbers, however, that wasn't the case.
Moss would play in just four games for Minnesota that season, his second stint with the team. He totaled just 174 yards and two touchdowns before being waived, and he was later claimed by the Tennessee Titans. Favre's 2010 season ended with him throwing for 2,509 yards in 13 games, with 11 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.
The inept and over-the-hill Favre was a long way from being the player of the season before when he compiled over 4,200 yards and 33 touchdowns in his debut season that led to a Conference Championship appearance for the Vikings. Minnesota missed the playoffs in Favre's last season and the Hall of Fame quarterback had his consecutive games played streak snapped as well.
1 Joe Montana and Marcus Allen
Two all-time greats at their respective positions crossed paths in 1993 when Montana and Allen both joined the Kansas City Chiefs. The pair would spend two seasons together and make two trips to the playoffs, with Allen even winning Comeback Player of the Year honors in his first season with the team.
The Chiefs would make the playoffs twice with the two veterans, and made it as far as the AFC Championship Game in 1993, which was lost to the Buffalo Bills. Allen finished that season with over 1,000 yards and an astounding 15 total touchdowns, while Montana barely broke 2,000 yards in 11 games, with 13 touchdowns and seven picks.
Montana would retire following the 1994 season, leaving Allen behind to play the last three seasons of his career in KC. It's safe to say the Chiefs' investment in two aging players paid off and almost resulted in a Super Bowl appearance.
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