Every year in the NFL there are players on the back end of their careers and on the decline whether they had super star careers or not. With this realization comes the fact that players decline as they get older.
Although we as fans hate to see it we have to accept it and even embrace it because these men have worked their tail off and deserve to be mentioned as the top NFL players actively on the decline.
Sometimes players decline quicker than others. We've all seen how the running back position is the most prone to quick declines, as it's now become a regular occurrence to see a player's best days behind him in his late 20s, and running backs have even been retiring in their mid to late 20s. Sometimes linemen can fall victim to it too, as they are taking punishment on every play, while a receiver can suffer an injury and never be the same in route running or acrobatic catches.
There is a large possibility that one (or more) of the players on this list completely prove me wrong and somehow improve this year.
On that note, I have to say that this was a touch list to create and I know that some players were left off. Please feel free to leave a comment below with anyone I missed or your thoughts regarding our list of the top 15 NFL players actively on the decline.
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13 Robert Griffin III
Yes, I know he is young, but man has he been on the decline for a couple years now and he continues to look unimpressive as the preseason progresses.
After a stellar rookie season which resulted in 27 touchdowns, over 4,000 yards and the offensive rookie of the year award, he has declined at a faster rate than most could even think possible.
It is unfortunate how it happened and what has happened regarding RG3, but I do not expect him to be on the Redskins after this season and possibly not on any roster after that. (Maybe it is because of the offensive line?)
Now that we finished with RG3, we can move on to players who have consistently had rock solid careers and are nearing the end of their time in the NFL
14. Terence Newman
Newman has produced a solid NFL career and recently earned a one year deal with the Vikings. Although it is a productive signing for the young Vikings, I don't expect Newman to have a very big impact on the field at the ripe age of 36.
He will definitely make an impact on the younger guys which can result in improved play from the secondary. This may be the final season for the veteran Newman, but who knows. Maybe he will ride it out to continue mentoring the young guys another year or two.
As for on the field performance, I do not anticipate much production from a 36-year-old vet entering his 13th season.
12 Fred Jackson
Fred Jackson has a great story and continues a that story in a solid NFL career after coming in undrafted. He has put up some impressive numbers during his NFL tenure and claims that he still has more to come this season even though Shady McCoy is starting on the Bills.
Jackson should be the number two running back in Buffalo this season, but will not be able to put up the numbers he hopes for and will continue his slow and steady decline as it happens to all veteran NFL players at 34 years old, especially at running back.
11 Frank Gore
Frank Gore has had a great career playing for the San Fransisco 49ers and will be moving into one of the best offenses in the NFL with the Colts.
There is a reason the 49ers let him go after last season, as he is 32. That is the exact time (actually in some cases well past the time) when backs begin to decline.
With an offense as potent as the Colts, I anticipate Gore having a productive season (thanks to Andrew Luck) and will have the opportunity for some red zone touchdowns.
10 Robert Mathis
Although Mathis is going into this season at the age of 36 he had an incredible 2013 campaign and posted the most sacks in the NFL at 19.5.
Unfortunately, since then he has not been able to get on the field due to a suspension that turned into an Achilles tear and a lost season.
Is it too late for a player who was pretty amazing just a couple years ago? After that kind of injury at the age he is I find it very hard to believe he is headed back to where he once was. At this point in his career, the decline has begun and we will continue to see it this year.
Or maybe he will prove us wrong, that would be awesome.
9 Andre Johnson
There are a few colts on this list and Johnson is another veteran addition they made this off season along with Frank Gore. Both players mentioned here definitely appear to be heading toward the decline portion of their careers.
Johnson was one of the top receiver in the NFL for most of his career, but due to injury and a pretty lousy Texans team he has clearly been on the decline which is why the Texans did not resign him.
However, he is ready to prove nay-sayers wrong this year with a powerful Colts team that has everything needed to reach the Super Bowl if they can limit injuries.
8 Steve Smith Sr.
It is already official that Smith Sr. will retire at the end of the 2015 season.
Although he is certainly not putting up the enormous numbers he did in his prime, the tough veteran aims to go out with a bang and put all his chips in on this final season.
With him retiring after this year there is a good chance Smith Sr. will play his heart out until the end and despite being on the decline in his last year, he may just surprise us.
7 Wes Welker
Welker has come form out of no where and made a significant impact for both the Patriots and the Broncos in his NFL career.
At this point, his career has recently been marred by concussions (which is a MAJOR issue facing the NFL) and has led multiple people (including me) to believe that Welker will either be done this year or the next.
Rumor is that he may have a chance with some teams that have had serious injuries to their top receivers and may have interest in Welker's services for the 2015 season.
Among the teams are the Carolina Panthers and the Green Bay Packers after both suffering devastating losses at the wide receiver position. (Please no more concussions Welker...)
6 James Harrison
Despite a very tough road to the NFL Harrison has had significant production during what most players call their final years in the league.
In his prime, (which was not long ago) Harrison was a scary dude with a bit of an attitude problem which is a combination for positive defensive production.
He will be turning 38 sometime this year and will definitely have a more limited role for the Steelers more than likely mentoring the young linebackers for the future.
Don't expect Harrison to have as much of an impact on the field, but expect him to be coaching up the youngsters.
6. Julius Peppers
Julius Peppers was a beast in his prime and has recently been able to make a significant impact for both the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers (nothing compared to his Panthers days though).
Although Packers GM Ted Thompson insists that Peppers will be a dominant force as always next season because he has Clay Mathews and an improved secondary, I still find it hard to believe that he is not on a decline after notching his lowest career sack total last year.
5 Reggie Wayne
Wayne, once a dominant receiver in his prime is now on the wrong end of 30 and will be turning 38 this year (which is impressive in itself).
The Colts decided to let him go this season even though he put up some impressive numbers for them over the years and is one of the best receivers in their history.
None the less, Wayne is now on the Patriots who are coming off another Super Bowl victory and despite injury (and Deflategate) seem to feel like they are right where they left off.
I don't see it, but I see Wayne on the decline as most 35+ players are.
4 Charles Woodson
Starting his 18th NFL season it is clear that All Pro and future Hall of Fame inductee Woodson is on the decline and will not be able to contribute as much as he used to.
Despite his age Woodson has been able to put up decent numbers over the last two seasons and notching over 100 tackles last season.
Will he be able to do it again? I hope so, but I do not think so. What an awesome career for one of the most well liked veterans in the NFL.
3 Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald is by far one of my favorite NFL players ever (if not my favorite overall) and is one of the most liked players in the entire league. He is the perfect example of what every coach wants in an NFL player and continues to prove that year in and year out.
Ask any coach in the league if they would take Fitzgerald on their team even though he is past 30 years old and has had a decline in his numbers.....I am 100% sure they would say yes.
Anyhow, I hate putting him on this list at all, but the numbers (age and stats recently) are tough to swallow and until he proves the numbers wrong I had to put him on the list at the number no.3 best NFL player on the decline. (Please prove me/the numbers wrong this year!)
Regardless of his numbers, Fitz is still a very productive NFL player who has potential to make an impact this season and possibly surprise us all.
2 Peyton Manning
Manning is one of the best players in NFL history and has shown why through an incredible career that resulted in multiple broken records, Pro Bowl appearances, Awards and a Super Bowl.
With his amazing career on the down years and him being 39 years old it is almost inevitable that he will be on the decline this season.
I fully expect Manning to put up good numbers this season, but it will not be as good as many hope for it to be. the Broncos should still make the playoffs whether Manning declines or not though.
1 Tom Brady
The famous (or infamous) Tom Brady has had one of the best NFL careers in history and at age 38 was able to not only win a Super Bowl (again) but also earn Super Bowl MVP honors in a hard nosed fight against the best defense in the NFL.
Although his legacy may be marred by multiple cheating scandals (thanks Belichick) he is still one of the best quarterbacks to play the game and is now entering the years of decline.
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