Having just won yet another Super Bowl, the Patriots yet again reign atop the NFL landscape, and football fans everywhere (except New England) are letting out a collective groan. But it's OK that the Pats are champs again, because they're a franchise that is conducive to content and discussion, given their unorthodox way of doing things. One hallmark of Bill Belichick's philosophy is that he doesn't necessarily mind bringing in a player that's been written off, or considered out of his prime. This has allowed the team to see plenty of notable one-off players of his tenure, who were only on the roster for a relatively brief amount of time.
Even before Belichick started coaching in New England, the team had a good amount of players that would leave and go on to greater notoriety with another franchise. This is true of most NFL teams, but the Patriots over the years have had an especially eclectic mix of familiar faces around the league. Let's take a look at which players fall into this category, and how much skill they actually had when they were on the team. How many do you remember during their time in New England?
Ranked below are the top 15 NFL players you forgot played for the Patriots.
15 Brian Hoyer
One of the league's current favorite journeyman quarterbacks did indeed spend time on the Patriots. Not as a starter of course; he backed up Tom Brady just like every other quarterback would. He left after three seasons with the team in 2011, and since then has bounced around the league to a tune of four other teams, with his future for 2017 currently uncertain. Multiple teams have given him a chance as a starter, but Hoyer has proven that he's nothing more than a solid backup, which is actually a pretty respectable position to work up to, considering his credentials. On the Patriots however, he barely played in any games at all, for obvious reasons. Hoyer is a certified backup, and did the job well when he was with the Pats. Ultimately however, he was replaceable.
14 Danny Woodhead
Though he started his career with the Jets, and rose to more notoriety with the Chargers, Woodhead was somewhat inconspicuously on the Patriots for three seasons, beginning in 2010. Similar to how he is currently used with the Chargers, Belichick used him as a gadget player out of the backfield, making use of his shifty style of running, and low center of gravity (due to his smaller height). It worked for the time being, and he was a member of the 2011 Pats team that went to the Super Bowl (though lost to the Giants). After an injury-plagued season last year, the future is up in the air for Woodhead, who may find his days in the league wearing thin, if the Chargers move on from him, and he's unable to find a new team to play with.
13 Fred Taylor
One of the most underrated running backs of the Y2K Era, Taylor spent him prime years with the Jaguars, and was a force of nature out of the backfield. He seemed to be good for a 1,000 yard rushing season nearly every single year, and was probably the best overall player on their offense for that span of time. As is often forgotten however, his last two seasons in the NFL were spent in New England, though he wasn't able to be used as a feature running back anymore. In fact, he only played in a combined 13 games during those seasons with the Patriots; a far cry from his best years in Jacksonville. Ultimately, it didn't effect his legacy much at all, and Taylor is one of the better rushers of his time, though playing on a mostly sub-par Jaguars team hurt his notoriety a bit as the years passed.
12 Irving Fryar
While he had a 16-year NFL career, and spent the majority of his seasons on the Patriots, Fryar is better known for his time on other teams. He was one of Dan Marino's go-to receivers during the mid-90s, and also spent numerous quality years in Philadelphia. With the Patriots during the 80s and early-90s, he was more of a change-of-pace receiver and also spent time returning punts. Fryar is the rare example of an NFL receiver getting better with age, and he showed that everywhere he went other than New England, in terms of being a number-one receiving talent. It doesn't help that he was on the Patriots for some of the worst seasons in franchise history. Fryar is actually one of the more underrated receivers of his era as a whole, and he got his start with the Patriots.
11 Corey Dillon
Dillon spent most of his peak years with the Bengals, where he was one of the most dynamic running backs in all of football. He did have one monster season with the Pats in 2004, including a Super Bowl victory, but overall he's probably better remembered for his time in Cincinnati, given that he was a perennial 1,000 yard rusher during his tenure there. This is a classic Belichick move; to bring in a player who was cast off from another team, and have them be a key producer on a Pats team that went on a deep playoff run. Still, Dillon's best years were with the Bengals, and that's where he is remembered the most. He was able to assist the Pats during a key season or two however, and the decision to give him a shot ended up paying off, for what it was worth.
10 Terry Glenn
Since he was mostly on the Patriots just before the pre-Brady era, Glenn doesn't usually get the credit he deserves for being a certified number one wide receiver during his time in New England for several years. In fact, his time spent with the Cowboys several years later is probably documented and remembered more, but he was a solid receiving option for Drew Bledsoe, just before Brady came into the picture as the starter. He probably could have been a solid option for Brady's early years, but he was coming off of an injury-plagued, down season in 2001, and the team opted to move on. Glenn finished out his career with several excellent seasons in Dallas before calling it quits. All in all, while he may not have been the most consistent receiver, Glenn is probably one of the most underrated of his era.
9 Jeff Feagles
Feagles is one of the punters that played in the NFL for seemingly 50 years. He was a member of the 2007 Giants Super Bowl team, and had a long, productive career booting the ball for various teams. He got his start in New England in 1988, but only lasted for two seasons with the team. From there, he went on to play for four others, and overall was one of the most consistent punters of his time. The Super Bowl ring was well-deserved for excelling at one of the most overlooked positions on the field, and Feagles' long career ended up paying off for him. The Patriots teams he played on weren't very good, but he was able to go on to greener pastures later in his career.
8 Heath Evans
While he's better known for being the fullback on the Super Bowl-winning Saints team of 2010, Evans also spent time with the Patriots before he got to New Orleans. These weren't any of the Super Bowl-winning Patriots teams, so his time there is generally glossed over, but he did contribute his (mostly lead blocking) skills to several deep playoff runs. Not a flashy player by any means, but a prototypical one that Belichick would have liked to seek out and acquire. Evans didn't make a game-breaking difference on any of the Patriots, but he bought into the system, and did his job for the most part, which is of high value for a franchise like New England. Now, you can catch him on NFL Network, where he showcases his skills as an analyst, which are much less than those of his days as an NFL fullback.
7 Matt Cassel
Cassel was another quarterback who was fortunate to start off his career in New England, and is the only quarterback in the Brady-era to have sustained success playing the position as a result of season-ending injury to Brady. That occurred during the 2006 season, and Cassel ended up leading the Pats to a surprising 10-win campaign, though Brady did return for the playoffs. That was probably the most memorable season of Cassel's career, as he then went on to various starting and backup roles over the years, including a Pro Bowl selection when he was with the Chiefs. Overall however, he just wasn't able to break into the upper-tier rank of NFL quarterbacks, and is now spending his later years as a confirmed second-string player, only being used in emergencies or blowout games.
6 Kellen Winslow
At the time he was drafted in 2004 by the Browns, Winslow was one of the most highly touted tight end prospects of all-time. He was compared to the likes of Tony Gonzalez; a pass catcher who also held up in the blocking games, which wasn't a given for tight ends in that era. He never did quite live up to that projection, despite some nice seasons with the Buccaneers and the Browns, and it's often forgotten that he did end up with the Patriots for one season in 2012. It wasn't a Super Bowl year, and Winslow only appeared in a single game for the team, but he was there nonetheless. After one last solid season with the Jets in 2013, Winslow retired. He may not have been a big presence in New England, but he was on the roster during his waning years in the league.
5 Curtis Martin
Many forget that Martin started out his career in New England, before going on to a near-decade long run with the Jets as their featured running back. Not only that, but Martin produced while with the Pats; totaling over 1,000 yards rushing in each of the three seasons he was with the team. It was in the Drew Bledsoe era, just before Brady came in, but he was there for the Super Bowl appearance in 1996 (yes, the Patriots made Super Bowls before Brady and Belichick arrived). Actually, that exceeded anything he won during his time with the Jets, so his time in New England holds up pretty well with the rest of his career. Without a doubt, Martin is one of the best running backs of his era, and could have been an all-time great with the Patriots had he stayed longer.
4 Darrelle Revis
With all of the legal trouble Revis has found himself in recently, and given his storied history with the Jets, it may be easy to forget the fact that he was a member of the Patriots during the Super Bowl-winning 2014 team just a few years ago. Not only that, but it was one of the best seasons of Revis' elite career, and was a key aspect of the defense for that season. The Pats may have gotten rid of him at the perfect, as Revis regressed heavily for the 2016 season, and now his career is in serious jeopardy given the current allegations against him. Not hanging on to him too long is a hallmark Belichick move, knowing that he can adapt cheaper personnel to a system that suits them best.
3 Joey Galloway
Galloway was one of the most consistent receivers of his era, and spent many years as a prime receiving target in Seattle, Dallas and Tampa Bay. He did however spend one sole season in 2009 as a member of the Patriots, a classic example of Belichick seeking out a veteran, proven player to aid his roster. While it didn't really work out that way (Galloway only played in three games during his time in New England), that thought process has helped the Patriots mightily over the years, and Galloway fit the bill. After another season with the Redskins in 2010, he would retire for good, leaving behind almost two decades of excellent wide receiver play behind him. Not an all-time great for the Patriots, but a great receiver who did happen to spend a bit of time there.
2 Doug Flutie
One of the certified cult heroes of the quarterback position, Flutie has been an in-the-know icon of the NFL players for his unorthodox style of play, and entertaining scrambling ability. Certainly, though the legendary Hail Mary throw he made while at Boston College would prove otherwise, he wasn't the greatest arm talent. That was proven during his brief time as a starter on the Patriots during the 1988 and 1989 seasons. Those two would be his last in the NFL until he made a comeback with the Bills nine years later, after spending some time in the CFL, and other leagues. Flutie wasn't the answer at quarterback during a down time in the Patriots franchise history, but as noteworthy of a name that he is, it's one of the more interesting tidbits in Patriots franchise history.
1 Chad Johnson
Much like his peer Terrell Owens at the time, Johnson became more scrutinized and heralded (depending on who you ask), for his antics on the field, rather than his elite play. Make no mistake though, Johnson (or Ochocinco, depending on what year you're talking about), was one of the best receivers in the NFL for about a decade. Everyone knows that Belichick decided to resurrect Randy Moss' career in 2007, but he tried to do the same with Johnson in 2011, and it failed miserably. Johnson started in just three games, and never got on the same page with Tom Brady, which is pretty much the death knell for a Patriots wide receiver. It would be Johnson's last year in the league, and the only season he ever spent outside of Cincinnati. It wasn't a storybook ending, but it's an interesting one. For the Patriots, they've had plenty of other experiments at wide receiver turn out in their favor, that the Johnson failure probably doesn't bother them too much.