It has become the calling card for this generation of NFL players: the younger you are, the more a franchise and a city are bound to count on you. Indeed, teams have been known to throw a lot more hope into top 10 picks, nowadays more than ever. Gone are the times when rookies would sit and watch the veterans. Now it’s all about being ready to play, and play now. Just ask Andrew Luck, or Robert Griffin III. However, some coaches and executives are still fans of sitting your young players so that they can step in in a few years. Just ask Mike McCarthy and the Green Bay Packers. Seems like Aaron Rodgers turned out all right.
That’s why it’s so impressive to see veterans survive for north of ten years with the same team when the turnover rate in the NFL has never been so high. Not only are these veterans still performing at a very high level, but more often than not, they are also outperforming the young guns eager to take their spots. It’s also very sad to see these players go, because they have very often immersed themselves in the communities in which they play. This isn’t to say that all veterans are fan favourites, but more often than not, they are.
*Note: Due to many ties, there have been subjective tiebreaks on this list.
10 Antonio Gates – San Diego Chargers – 11 Years
9 Jason Witten/Tony Romo - Dallas Cowboys – 11 Years
8 Andre Johnson – Houston Texans – 11 Years
7 Terrell Suggs – Baltimore Ravens – 11 Years
6 Brett Keisel – Pittsburgh Steelers – 12 Years
5 Steve Smith – Carolina Panthers – 13 Years
4 Reggie Wayne – Indianapolis Colts – 13 Years
3 Brad Meester – Jacksonville Jaguars – 14 Years
2 Tom Brady – New England Patriots – 14 Years
1 Sebastian Janikowski – Oakland Raiders – 14 Years
Now, I can already hear the roars of discontent coming from readers as they see that Janikowski is ahead of Tom Brady on this list. My reasoning is this: quarterbacks usually get the girl, the money and the fame. So for once, let’s let the kicker have his moment in the sun. As Rich Eisen puts it so well, kickers are people too. Janikowski is also the Raiders’ career leading scorer with just over 1,000 points scored since he entered the league as the 17th overall selection in 2000. Known as one of Al Davis’ more controversial picks, Janikowski has actually panned out very nicely, and continues to be one of the best place kickers in the league. But it probably feels weird walking into a locker room where the player with the most seniority is the kicker.
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