A possible trade between the Houston Texans and Denver Broncos for Peyton Manning reportedly fell through before coming to fruition, but if it had happened it would've made Manning a mercenary, of sorts. By trading for Manning, the Texans would have discounted their future to become more of a Super Bowl threat in the present.
Make no mistake, successful teams are able to find superstars in the NFL Draft and secure them for the long term. The Texans managed to do that four years ago by selecting J.J. Watt and the New England Patriots locked down their future by using a sixth-round pick on Tom Brady way back in 2000.
Some players don't stick with the same team their entire career, though. Actually, most players end up bouncing around between a few teams before their NFL careers run their course. Even some of the NFL's elite bounce around as one-year stopgaps near the tail end of their career.
Darrelle Revis was in his sixth season with the New York Jets when an ACL tear ended his 2012 season. Since then, he's essentially been a mercenary, who received $16 million for one year of work with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and $12 million for his year with the New England Patriots.
Brett Favre was treated similarly in his final years in the NFL. After 16 prolific seasons with the Green Bay Packers that will undoubtedly land him in the Hall of Fame, he retired, came out of retirement and played for the New York Jets, retired again, came out of retirement and played two seasons with the Minnesota Vikings, and retired one more time. His three seasons after retiring from the Packers netted Favre more than $40 million.
With Manning presumably staying in Denver in 2015 and Revis committing to a long-term reunion with the Jets, there aren't any mercenaries making nearly as much as Favre did. There are still a few starting-quality players who have spent their later NFL years bouncing around, though.
Eric Winston, OT, Bengals
Winston spent six seasons as the starting right tackle for the Houston Texans before he was released in March 2012. He signed with the Kansas City Chiefs and started all 16 games, but was released after the season. He then played out a one-year contract with the Arizona Cardinals and signed with the Seattle Seahawks in 2014.
He didn't make the final roster though, and was out of football until the Cincinnati Bengals needed a filler late in the year. His performance in four games was enough to earn a one-year deal from the team after the season.
LaMarr Woodley, OLB, Cardinals
After seven years and 57 sacks for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Woodley was released after the 2013 season and joined the Oakland Raiders on a two-year deal, but only played one before he was released again. In March, he signed with the Cardinals on a one-year contract.
Woodley will fill the mercenary void left by the departure of John Abraham, who was signed at age 35 to bolster the team's pass rush as a stopgap.
Michael Oher, OT, Panthers
The subject of "The Blind Side" says that the fame received from his likeness in the film has hurt his career, which has recently devolved into one similar to Winston. Five seasons with the Baltimore Ravens came to an end when he signed a four-year deal with the Tennessee Titans in 2014, but that lasted just one year, despite Oher starting all 11 games he played during the year.
Now he's a member of the Carolina Panthers after agreeing to a two-year contract with the team where he'll likely start at left tackle.
Nick Fairley, DL, Rams
Fairley's signing is a big deal given that he's considered one of the up-and-coming players at his position in the NFL. He was consistently overshadowed by Ndamukong Suh with the Detroit Lions, but Fairley has the potential to be one of the top defensive linemen in the NFL. He signed a one-year, prove-it deal with the Rams and smart money is on him getting a significant payday next offseason. That's provided he can stay healthy and keep his weight in check, two issues he had with the Lions.
Fairley joins one of the league's most talented defensive lines already, but his play could elevate them even further, for at least one season.
Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders
While Crabtree was on the open market for a lot longer than expected, his signing with the Raiders is significant. Derek Carr is still developing at quarterback, and what he needs more than anything is a couple of reliable targets. Crabtree is consistent, even if he isn't out there breaking records. He didn't live up to his potential as a first-round pick with the San Francisco 49ers, but if he can become Carr's favorite target over rookie Amari Cooper, he could be in line for the big payday he was hoping he would get this offseason.
The Raiders are awfully close to fielding a competitive football team. A guy like Crabtree may not be the one to push them over the edge, but he gets them a whole lot closer.
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