An NFL career typically doesn't last very long. Players work their whole lives to establish themselves in the professional ranks and usually do so with one team. They are able to maintain a relationship with the coaches, owners and teammates in a franchise. After several years, they begin to become a key part of the long term plan. It all seems like it just "fits". The player is happy with the ownership, enjoys good relationships with the fans, and becomes one of the faces of the franchise.
There are instances however, in which a successful player on the given team opts to leave for another destination or is traded away. While many people would assume that he could continue his high caliber play, for whatever reason it just wasn't in the cards. Maybe it was the change of scenery, bickering with ownership, a deterioration of skills, or a combination of all of those things. Whatever the reason, the new team clearly wasn't working out, and retirement or yet another change of location quickly followed.
For some, a few bad years with a new team didn't define their career as a failure. Sometimes it was just a poor decision, and the quality years they spent with their original team were enough to make up for it. For others, the move definitely left a blemish on their resume, and most likely they were left wishing that they had stayed put. In the end, while it is tempting to try and seek new destinations in professional football, this list is proof that grass isn't always greener on the other side. Below are the top 15 NFL players who changed teams and fell off the map.
15 Jerry Porter
Porter was a mainstay on the Raiders' roster during the 2000s. He was consistent, though never putting up record numbers. Of course a lot of that could have had to do with playing alongside Hall of Fame WR Jerry Rice for four seasons. Regardless, he was always viewed as a dependable sure-handed receiver.
Unfortunately, his final year spent with the Jaguars did not yield impressive results. Clearly not a fit for Jacksonville's system, in 2008 Porter produced just 181 yards receiving with one touchdown reception. He would retire following the conclusion of the season, and should have just finished out his career with the silver and black.
14 Nnamdi Asomugha
Another mainstay on Oakland's roster in 00s, this time in the secondary, Asomugha was one of the league's most highly touted corners available in the 2011 offseason. He signed with the Eagles, and looked like a completely different player. For the worse.
He couldn't cover, he couldn't tackle, a complete bust all around. It didn't help matters that fellow recently acquired corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie followed suit, and for the next two years Philadelphia's secondary looked like burnt toast nearly every Sunday. Asomugha was clearly the one contributing most to this, and he spent one final year in San Francisco before retiring.
13 Terrell Owens
There wasn't a better, or more polarizing, receiver in the league from 1996 to 2003 when Owens was on the 49ers. When he went to the Eagles for 2004 season, it wasn't the elite talent that went away, but rather his good relationship with the franchise.
It worked for one year. In 2004, despite Owens missing several games, Philadelphia went to the Super Bowl and he turned in a stellar season, racking up 14 touchdown receptions. In the offseason though, everything went completely wrong. There has probably never been a more defining example of an athlete who was loved in a certain city, doing everything wrong to upset a franchise. Eagles' management were left with no choice, and midway through the 2005 season, Owens was indefinitely suspended for detrimental conduct.
12 Randy Moss
Another high profile receiver, Moss was successful for both the Vikings, Raiders and Patriots. After a third year in New England where he notched over 1,200 yards receiving and 13 TD receptions, he was eventually traded to the Vikings. After just a few weeks, he was placed on waivers and claimed by the Titans. That's where he really began to fade.
In eight games started, Moss didn't get a single TD, and had just 80 receiving yards on 16 targets. It was apparent he didn't fit in with Tennessee's plan and he left the following year. Unfortunately, Moss never regained his elite status, despite making a stop with 49ers. He retired following the 2012 season.
11 Nick Foles
Foles' career thus far has been nothing short of an enigma, but it looks like it's trending downward. After his out-of-nowhere 2013 season in Philadelphia where he tossed 27 TD passes while throwing just two INTs, he hasn't been able to duplicate that level of success. After a middling final season with the Eagles, he was traded to the Rams for the 2015 season.
The results were not good. Foles was benched in favor of Case Keenum (I don't know either), and his career remains very much in limbo. The fact that he was benched for such a no-name QB does not bode well for him, and his flaws have been exploited so if he does start again, opposing defenses will know how to combat him.
10 DeMarco Murray
Perhaps the best example of a player who showcased a complete 180 from the previous year, the difference between Murray's 2014 year in Dallas (1,845 yards), and his 2015 year in Philadelphia (702 yards), are like night and day. Whether it was not being a fit for Chip Kelly's scheme, or suffering behind a poor offensive line, Murray had a disastrous season.
It's one of the only examples in NFL history of an elite, league-leading rusher completely taking a nose dive the following season. Again, Murray will get an opportunity to prove it was an off year, when he goes to Tennessee this season, but for now it remains as one of the worst seasons ever by an elite player at his position.
9 Kevin Dyson
Dyson was never an all-out star in the league, but he was an integral part of the receiving core of the successful Titans teams in the early 2000s. His best season came in 2001 when he started all 16 games, and notched seven TD receptions. In his sixth and final season in 2003, he went to the Panthers and caught just two passes for 15 yards.
Injuries had plagued Dyson throughout his career, but his brief stint in Carolina spelled the end of it. He would retire the following season, and leave many fans in Tennessee wondering what his career could have been.
8 Tim Tebow
It may seem like an odd inclusion on this list, but the fact of the matter is that Tebow did win a playoff game during the 2011 season with the Broncos. For a brief minute, it seemed like there was a place for his creative style at QB, despite his questionable mechanics at the position. All of those thoughts were quickly proved wrong when Tebow went to the Jets in 2012.
He barely got a chance to play, throwing for just 39 yards on eight attempts. Clearly, Rex Ryan's staff didn't see any potential in him, and it was the last season Tebow would play in the league to date. It's not exactly surprising, as the 2011 Broncos were largely carried by their defense, but it was odd to see a QB who fronted a playoff team one season, be out of the league a mere two years later.
7 James Harrison
Harrison is still in the league, and has been largely respected as a feared pass rusher. He's considered an all-time great career Steeler, up there with names like Bettis, Roethlisberger and Bradshaw. That is, except for the one year in 2013 that he spent as a Bengal.
From 2007 to 2012, Harrison never recorded less than six sacks per season. That all changed when he notched just two the following year. He just clearly wasn't a good fit in Marvin Lewis' system, and the following season he was back in Pittsburgh. Evidently, Harrison is a one-city player, born to represent the black and yellow.
6 Greg Jennings
From 2006 to 2012, Jennings was a mainstay receiver for the Packers, and briefly was considered an elite one league-wide. His career high for receiving yards came in 2008 when he recorded over 1,200 in Green Bay.
Since going to Minnesota in 2013, Jennings has regressed every season since. He has barely recorded more than 800 yards in a season, and in 2015, amassed just 208. Granted, a lot of this probably has to do with the fact that Aaron Rodgers is no longer throwing him the football. Even so, it qualifies as someone that probably should have made every effort to just stay put, and play with elite talent for slightly less money.
5 Josh McCown
In what is a strange example, given that McCown had never done much in the first 10 years of his career, he was actually one of the first choices to start for the Bears following the 2013 season. Although he was always just a journeyman QB, McCown had a solid season in just five starts that year. He threw 13 TD passes and just one INT, with an overall passer rating of 109.0.
He performed so well, that some fans of the team proposed getting rid of Jay Cutler, and giving McCown the starting job permanently. Ultimately, it didn't work out and the next year he was on the Bucs, just continuing to be a middle of the road QB. His career has further regressed since signing with Cleveland. It probably wouldn't have been what some Bears fans were expecting, but it remains as an interesting thought experiment.
4 Julius Thomas
This one has a bit of prediction involved. In 2013 and 2014 with the Broncos, Thomas had emerged as an elite TE, catching 12 TD passes each season. When he was traded to the Jaguars for the start of the 2015 season, he caught just five.
This downward trend could continue for Thomas, considering that Jacksonville has a plethora of weapons on offense to choose from, and he likely will see less targets there than he would have in Denver. Having to compete for time with young talents such as Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory will likely cause his future statistics to be slighted. For individual performance, Thomas should have likely stayed put with the Broncos. Time will tell.
3 Randall Cunningham
Cunningham was a high-end starting QB for both the Eagles and Vikings through the 1999 season. He went to the Cowboys in 2000, and never regained his prior success. Age definitely played a part in it, but he tossed just six TD passes and threw four picks that season, and the writing was definitely on the wall.
Cunningham would only play another season in the league before retiring, but it still seems strange to consider him in a Dallas uniform. Ultimately, he probably should have just retired, leaving just his defining years with his previous two teams. It doesn't really hurt his overall legacy, but it doesn't add to it either.
2 Daunte Culpepper
Culpepper was Cunningham's successor in Minnesota, and had several stellar seasons with them. He looked to be their franchise QB for another five seasons or so, before he was traded Miami in 2006. He spent stints with both the Raiders and Lions as well over the next three years, and never started more than six games in a season.
Culpepper's career has always been a curiosity. After his 2004 year in which he threw for nearly 5,000 yards, he was never able to duplicate that level of success. What once looked like a Hall of Fame type career was quickly realized as limited after several peak years in Minnesota.
1 Eddie George
George was a mainstay skill player on the Titans for eight seasons until 2003. He totaled seven 1,000 yard seasons, and didn't miss a game in Tennessee. Widely considered one of, if not the most consistent RB in the league, he was the epitome of a "bell cow" runner, that had a nose for the end zone (64 TDs). Given this, the Cowboys must have assumed that were getting the worthy replacement to Hall of Fame RB Emmitt Smith.
That's not really how it worked out. George spent just one season in Dallas before retiring and started just eight games. He scored just four TDs and averaged 3.3 yards per carry. Clearly at the end of his rope, George retired after the season, and Dallas wouldn't be able to replace Smith until they landed the aforementioned DeMarco Murray.