Olding up just fine: The oldest player on each NFL team
Football isn't always a young man's game
When Denver quarterback Peyton Manning and Oakland cornerback Charles Woodson meet this weekend, the two oldest position players in the NFL will be on the field at the same time. Not every old guy is a future Hall of Famer, though. In honor of Sunday’s Manning-Woodson “Old Bowl,” here’s a look at the oldest player from every NFL team – including punters and kickers (they need love, too) and excluding the three long snappers who would have qualified (because we know you’ve never heard of any of them).
Getty ImagesKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Arizona Cardinals: John Abraham, LB, age 36 (born 5/16/78)
>> IN HIS PRIME: The Jets made Abraham the 13th overall pick in the 2000 draft, and he made the first of five Pro Bowls in 2001. What’s remarkable is the last of those five Pro Bowl selections came a year ago, at age 35. >> TODAY: Abraham suffered a concussion in his only game this season and admitted he had been suffering from memory loss even before the concussion. The Cardinals placed him on injured reserve, and he’s considering retirement.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
Atlanta Falcons: Matt Bryant, K, age 39 (born 5/29/75)
>> IN HIS PRIME: After kicking for three teams in his first three NFL seasons, Bryant settled in for a four-year stint with the Bucs followed by his current six-year run with the Falcons. He seemed to reach his peak at age 36, when he made a career-best 93.1 percent of his field goals (27 of 29) in 2011. >> TODAY: Bryant kicks on at age 39 and is in his fifth straight season of 80 percent or better accuracy on field goals.
Getty ImagesScott Cunningham
Baltimore Ravens: Steve Smith Sr., WR, age 35 (born 5/21/79)
>> IN HIS PRIME: The Panthers drafted Smith with the 74th overall pick in 2001, and he spent 13 seasons with Carolina, making five Pro Bowls. He earned Comeback Player of the Year honors in 2005, when he led the NFL in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown receptions. He was released by Carolina on March 13, 2014. >>TODAY: A day later, Smith signed a three-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens. His impact has been immediate, as he has caught 46 balls for 711 yards and four touchdowns in his first nine games as a Raven.
Getty ImagesLarry French
Buffalo Bills: Erik Pears, OT, age 32 (born 6/25/82)
>> IN HIS PRIME: Signed by the Broncos as a free agent out of Colorado State in 2006, Pears played in 16 games as a rookie, starting 10. He started all 16 games in 2007 before missing the entire 2008 season after an appendectomy. He then spent a year in Oakland and part of 2010 in Jacksonville. >> TODAY: Pears has found a home with the Bills. He started every game he has played in since 2011.
Getty ImagesJim McIsaac
Carolina Panthers: Colin Cole, DT, age 34 (born 6/24/80)
>> IN HIS PRIME: Cole entered the league as an undrafted free agent with the Packers in 2004 but never was a full-time starter until he left Green Bay in 2009. He started 26 games with the Seahawks in 2009-10 before an injury kept him off a roster in 2011, and he was out of the NFL entirely in 2012. >> TODAY: Cole caught on with the Panthers last season, resuming his career at age 33, and has been a starter there since.
Getty ImagesScott Cunningham
Chicago Bears: Roberto Garza, C, age 35 (born 3/26/79)
>> IN HIS PRIME: Garza, a fourth-round pick of the Falcons in 2001, didn’t become a full-time starter until his fourth – and final – year with Atlanta. He was back to being a part-time starter in his first year with the Bears, but from 2006 through 2013, he missed only two games and started in all of the remaining 126. >> TODAY: The usually durable Garza missed four games with a high ankle sprain earlier this season but has been back since Week 6. He’s in the top 20 among all active NFL players in games started.
Getty ImagesScott Cunningham
Cincinnati Bengals: Terence Newman, DB, age 36 (9/4/78)
>> IN HIS PRIME: Newman was a unanimous All-American coming out of Kansas State, and that led to the Dallas Cowboys choosing him with the fifth overall pick in 2003. He was a two-time Pro Bowler – 2007, ’09 -- with Dallas and led the team in interceptions five times. Newman was released by the Cowboys on March 13, 2012. >> TODAY: Less than a month later, Newman signed with the Cincinnati Bengals and has found a home in their secondary. He had two interceptions in both 2012 and ’13 and has started all eight games this season.
Getty ImagesTom Szczerbowski
Cleveland Browns: Karlos Dansby, LB, age 33 (born: 11/3/81)
>> IN HIS PRIME: Dansby was a second-round pick in 2004 out of Auburn by the Arizona Cardinals. In his second season with Arizona, he returned two interceptions for touchdowns -- a first by a Cardinals linebacker. Another highlight occurred in the 2010 season, when he recovered an overtime fumble by Aaron Rodgers in a playoff game and returned it for a touchdown. Following that season, Dansby signed with the Miami Dolphins. He remained with them until being released in March 2013. He then signed a one-year contract to return to Arizona. >> TODAY: Dansby is a key player on the Cleveland defense. The Browns gave him a four-year contract with a $14 million guarantee. He has started all eight games this season, making 61 tackles and picking off one pass.
Getty ImagesJason Miller
Dallas Cowboys: Tony Romo: QB, age 34 (born 4/21/80)
>> IN HIS PRIME: It was in 2006, but it seems like a lifetime ago when then-Cowboys coach Bill Parcells took a chance on starting the undrafted Romo over the aging Drew Bledsoe. Romo hit the ground running after two-plus years on the bench and has been essentially the same statistically strong but error-prone quarterback since. Along the way, he’s been to three Pro Bowls. >> TODAY: Even while deciding whether to play this weekend through his second major back injury in the past year, Romo was one of the main reasons for Dallas’ surprising 6-1 start to the season. His 103.6 QB rating this season is the best of his career.
Getty ImagesWesley Hitt
Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning, QB, age 38 (born: 3/24/1976)
>> IN HIS PRIME: The argument can be made that Manning started out in his prime and has never left it. The No. 1 overall pick out of Tennessee by Indianapolis in 1998, Manning became the franchise for the Colts. He led them to victory in Super Bowl XLI and was the game’s MVP. A 13-time Pro Bowler and five-time league MVP, he rewrote the Colts record book. A neck injury kept him out of the 2011 season, opening the door for another chapter in another city. >> TODAY: Manning signed a five-year deal with the Denver Broncos in 2012. The team unretired its No. 18 – with the approval of Frank Tripucka – so the QB could wear the number he is synonymous with. He has continued his record-breaking run, this season throwing his 509th career TD pass to surpass Brett Favre and become the NFL’s all-time leader in the category.
Getty ImagesJim McIsaac
Detroit Lions: Dominic Raiola, C, age 35 (born 12/30/78)
>> IN HIS PRIME: Raiola has been around 14 seasons without making a Pro Bowl, but his durability has kept the 50th pick in the 2001 draft in the middle of the Lions’ offensive line for 14 years. He became a starter in his second season and has missed only four starts since, all in 2008. >> TODAY: Raiola ranks fifth among active players in games started with 196.
Getty ImagesLeon Halip
Green Bay Packers: Julius Peppers, LB, age 34 (born 1/18/80)
>> IN HIS PRIME: The Panthers drafted Peppers with the second overall pick in 2002, and he was selected to five Pro Bowls in eight seasons with Carolina before he made it to three more in a four-year stint with the Bears that ended with his release due to salary-cap reasons after last season. >> TODAY: Peppers remains an athletic freak, as evidenced by his ability to move from defensive end to linebacker upon signing with the Packers during the offseason. Four sacks in eight games and a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown are further proof he’s not far removed from his prime.
Getty ImagesJoel Auerbach
Houston Texans: Ryan Pickett, NT, age 35 (born 10/8/79)
>> IN HIS PRIME: Pickett was a first-round pick – chosen 29th overall – by the St. Louis Rams out of Ohio State in 2001. After a quiet rookie season, Pickett blossomed. He was second on the team in tackles in 2002. This stellar play continued through 2005 and it earned him a four-year, $14 million contract from the Packers in 2006. He was a member of the Super Bowl XLV championship team, forcing a key fumble in the title-winning game. >> TODAY: Green Bay didn’t re-sign Pickett after eight successful seasons as the anchor of its line, and he was picked up by the Texans in late September.
Getty ImagesGeorge Gojkovich
Indianapolis Colts: Adam Vinatieri, K, age 41 (born: 12/28/72)
>> IN HIS PRIME: It’s been a remarkable career for an undrafted free agent out of South Dakota State. A four-time Super Bowl winner, six-time AFC champion and two-time Pro Bowler, Vinatieri spent 10 years as a New England Patriot. Highlights? There are many: He kicked field goals that eventually provided the winning margin in three Super Bowls for the Patriots. >> TODAY: Vinatieri has had an entire second career as a kicker with the Indianapolis Colts, whom he joined in 2006. His field goal in a playoff game against his former team in January 2014 made him the only player in NFL history to convert 50 postseason field goals.
Getty ImagesGeorge Gojkovich
Jacksonville Jaguars: Chris Clemons, DE, age 33 (born 10/30/81)
>> IN HIS PRIME: An undrafted free agent, Clemons played with Washington, Oakland and Philadelphia, gaining notice for a playoff-clinching TD fumble return in 2008. He has notched more than 60 sacks during his career and achieved a career highlight last season as a member of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. >> TODAY: The reward for winning a Super Bowl? Becoming a coveted free agent. Clemons took his talents to Jacksonville, where he received a four-year, $17.5 million contract. He’s made 25 tackles and has four sacks for the struggling Jags.
Getty ImagesRob Foldy
Kansas City Chiefs: Dustin Colquitt, P, age 32 (born: 5/6/82)
>> IN HIS PRIME: A member of the famed punting Colquitt family, Dustin was regarded so highly by Kansas City that he was drafted in the third round in 2005. He has remained a staple with the Chiefs. They placed such a value on him that he received a five-year contract worth $18.75 million in 2013. That made him the highest-paid punter in the NFL. >> TODAY: Still getting his kicks in Kansas City.
Getty ImagesJohn Konstantaras
Miami Dolphins: Cameron Wake, DE, age 32 (born 1/30/82)
>> IN HIS PRIME: The road to stardom had its bumps for this three-time Pro Bowler. Undrafted out of Penn State, Wake worked out for the New York Giants in 2005. They released him, and he did not resurface until 2007 … with the B.C. Lions of the CFL. There he became a two-time CFL All-Star, and that paved the way to interest from 17 teams before he signed with the Miami Dolphins in 2009. >> TODAY: Wake has thrived with the Dolphins, earning Pro Bowl honors in 2010, ’12 and ’13. In Miami, he has 60 sacks and has forced 12 fumbles.
Diamond Images/Getty ImagesDiamond Images
Minnesota Vikings: Matt Cassel, QB, age 33 (born 1/27/81)
>> IN HIS PRIME: Cassel, a Patriots seventh-round pick in 2005, is best remembered for his one year as a fill-in starter for Tom Brady after Brady suffered a major knee injury. Cassel won 10 of 15 games as a starter in 2008 and was worth a second-round pick from the Chiefs upon Brady’s return to health. He lasted four seasons in Kansas City – and even made a Pro Bowl in 2010 – before the Chiefs moved on from his 19-28 record as a starter. >> TODAY: Cassel signed on to be Christian Ponder’s backup with Minnesota last season but wound up getting six starts when Ponder struggled. He got three more starts this year as a placeholder for first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater before a broken foot ended his season.
Getty ImagesWesley Hitt
New England Patriots: QB, Tom Brady, 37 (born 8/3/1977)
>> IN HIS PRIME: This sixth-round pick became a starter in his second season and has not left the spotlight. What hasn’t he done? A three-time Super Bowl champ, two-time MVP, five-time AFC champion, Brady is a New England icon. >> TODAY: Isn’t any different from yesterday. After a mild early-season slump that had critics crowing he was done, Brady responded by leading the Patriots to four straight victories and their familiar spot atop the AFC East.
Getty ImagesJared Wickerham
New Orleans Saints: Shayne Graham, K, age 36 (born 12/9/77)
>> IN HIS PRIME: Graham entered the league in 2001 and has played for a whopping 10 teams since, but he is best known for his seven-year run as the Bengals’ kicker from 2003-09. He made his only Pro Bowl in 2005, making 28 of 32 field goals. >> TODAY: Graham kicked for two different teams in 2010, 2011 and 2013, which is the definition of a late-career journeyman. He has, though, made 13 of 14 field goals for the Saints this season.
Getty ImagesJeff Gross
New York Jets: LB, Jason Babin, 34 (born: 5/24/80)
>> IN HIS PRIME: A first-round pick by the Houston Texans – No. 27 overall – in 2004, Babin has had a nomadic career. The Jets are his eighth stop. The longest stint in any one place was three years with Houston. His peak was as a two-time Pro Bowler in 2010 and ’11. >> TODAY: Babin signed a two-year contract with the Jets in July. The team is languishing in last place, and he has nine tackles and two sacks.
Getty ImagesJim McIsaac
New York Giants: Josh Brown, K, age 35 (born 4/29/79)
>> IN HIS PRIME: Brown was drafted by the Seahawks in 2003 and spent five years in Seattle before moving on to St. Louis for four years. He then spent part of 2012 with Cincinnati before signing with the Giants in 2013. It’s hard to argue that he isn’t doing his best kicking now, as he’s made at least 88.5 percent of his field goals for three years running after hitting that mark just once in the previous nine seasons. >> TODAY: Brown is a perfect 8-for-8 on field goals this season and has made 27 of 28 dating back to last season.
Getty ImagesHunter Martin
Oakland Raiders: Charles Woodson, DB, 38 (born 10/7/1976)
>> IN HIS PRIME: A star of stars before he was selected with the fourth overall pick in the 1998 draft by the Raiders, Woodson won the Heisman Trophy in 1997. In the NFL, he has been a Super Bowl champion, eight-time Pro Bowler, Defensive Player of the Year (’09) and Rookie of the Year (’98). >> TODAY: Woodson is in his second stint with the Raiders, having returned in 2013 after spending seven years in Green Bay.
Getty ImagesThearon W. Henderson
Philadelphia Eagles: Donnie Jones, P, age 34 (born 7/15/80)
>> IN HIS PRIME: Jones was the rare punter who was actually drafted – by the Seahawks in the seventh round, back in 2004 – but he spent just one season with the Seahawks and two with the Dolphins before reaching a high point during a five-year run with the Rams. Jones averaged a league-high 50 yards per punt in 2008, 2.8 yard more than his best in any year before or since. >> TODAY: Jones left the Rams for the Texans in 2012 before moving on to Philadelphia for last season and this year. His averages of 44.9 (2013) and 44.0 yards (2014) per punt are far off his career bests, but his 40.4 net average last season was an Eagles franchise record.
Getty ImagesAl Bello
Pittsburgh Steelers: James Harrison, LB, 36 (born 5/4/78)
>> IN HIS PRIME: For years, he was of the most feared defensive players in the league. Harrison’s road to success was not easy. He wasn’t drafted and spent two years on the Steelers’ practice squad. After a couple more stops – Baltimore, Rhein Fire – Harrison found a home in Pittsburgh in 2004. He is a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion. Harrison also boasts the longest interception return in Super Bowl history – 100 yards. >>TODAY: After announcing his retirement in August following one season with the Bengals, Harrison returned to the game, re-signing with the Steelers. He can still be a force at times, as best shown by his fierce performance against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9.
Getty ImagesJoe Robbins
San Diego Chargers, Antonio Gates, TE, 34 (born: 6/18/1980)
>> IN HIS PRIME: He was undrafted in 2003, and that shouldn’t have been a surprise. Gates played basketball in college at Kent State. Still, the Chargers sensed potential and have been rewarded many times over. Gates is an eight-time Pro Bowler and has nearly 10,000 receiving yards. >>TODAY: Gates remains Philip Rivers’ favorite target in San Diego. He has 35 catches for 445 yards and 9 TDs this season.
Getty ImagesJustin Edmonds
St. Louis Rams: Shaun Hill, QB, age 34 (born 1/9/80)
>> IN HIS PRIME: Hill has made a nice career out of being a little-used backup quarterback, but before this season he did begin two different years – 2009 with the 49ers and 2010 with the Lions – as a starter. Neither experiment took, however, and his 13-14 record as a starter is probably the reason he didn’t get another start until this season. >> TODAY: Hill was the Rams’ first choice as a fill-in for starter Sam Bradford, who was lost to a torn ACL in the preseason. He was mediocre in a Week 1 loss before an injury forced him from that game, and he hasn’t thrown a pass since.
Getty ImagesJoe Skipper
San Francisco 49ers: Phil Dawson, K, age 39 (born 1/23/75)
>> IN HIS PRIME: Dawson put in an amazing 14 years with the Browns, culminating with his first Pro Bowl selection in 2012. >> TODAY: Dawson remained at the top of his game after signing with the 49ers in 2013 and made his first 27 field goals with the team before missing for the first time in Week 17. This season, he’s been struggling, making only 14 of 18.
Getty ImagesThearon W. Henderson
Seattle Seahawks: Kevin Williams, DT, age 34 (born 8/16/80)
>> IN HIS PRIME: Williams was the ninth overall pick in the 2003 draft and paid immediate dividends for the Vikings. By 2004, he had made it to his first Pro Bowl, an honor he would repeat five times through 2010 as part of the famed Williams Wall tandem with Pat Williams in the middle of Minnesota’s defensive line. >> TODAY: The Vikings parted with Pat Williams after the 2010 season, and Kevin left after the 2013 season. He’s been a starter this year for the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY SportsGeoff Burke
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Josh McCown, QB, age 35 (born 7/4/79)
>> IN HIS PRIME: McCown hasn’t had much of a prime, playing for six teams – mostly as a backup – in 12 nondescript seasons. He did, though, start at least five games in four different seasons – including last year, when he caught fire with the Bears while filling in for Jay Cutler and parlayed that into an improbable two-year, $10 million offseason deal to become the Bucs’ starter at age 35. >> TODAY: McCown started the first three games of the season before losing his starting job to Mike Glennon, but Glennon was no better, so coach Love Smith announced this week that he’s turning back to McCown as the answer for the 1-7 Bucs.
Getty ImagesCliff McBride
Tennessee Titans, George Wilson, SS, 33 (born 3/14/1981)
>> IN HIS PRIME: An undrafted free agent, Wilson came out of Arkansas to make a solid career for himself. After signing with the Lions, he bounced to Buffalo, where he was originally a wide receiver. In 2007, he moved to strong safety. That season, he returned an interception of Tony Romo for a touchdown. >>TODAY: Wilson has 22 tackles and an interception for the Titans.
Getty ImagesFrederick Breedon
Washington Redskins: Santana Moss, WR, age 35 (born 6/1/79)
>> IN HIS PRIME: Moss initially was a disappointment as the No. 16 overall pick in the 2001 draft – gaining more attention for his punt returns than his receiving ability -- but he finally became a starter and a 1,000-yard receiver for the Jets in his third season. He peaked in 2005 – his first year with the Redskins -- with a career-high 1,483 yards and his only Pro Bowl selection and remained a starter through the 2012 season even though he reached 1,000 yards only two more times >> TODAY: Moss is in his third season as a reserve, and this one has been tough for him. He’s been a healthy inactive all season under new coach Jay Gruden.