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The best all-time player for every NFL franchise

The best all-time player for every NFL franchise

All 32 NFL franchises have had great players, and some stand out above the rest. These are the best players to ever play for each team.


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Fitzgerald capped off a remarkable 17-year career in 2020. He spent his entire NFL time in Arizona, making 11 Pro Bowls, and ranks No. 2 all-time in receptions and receiving yards behind Jerry Rice.


Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan, QB

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Ryan had a great 15-year NFL career, with his first 14 seasons in Atlanta. He made the Pro Bowl four times and was the 2016 MVP en route to a Super Bowl appearance. Ryan helped turn around the Falcons franchise, tallying double-digit wins six times as the team’s starting quarterback.


Baltimore Ravens: Ray Lewis, LB

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The best linebacker of his generation, Lewis had a brilliant 17-year career with the Ravens. He was a 12-time Pro Bowler and seven-time All-Pro, winning two Super Bowls and two Defensive Player of the Year Awards.


Buffalo Bills: Bruce Smith, DE

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Among the Bills trio of Smith, Jim Kelly, and Thurman Thomas during the franchise’s early 90’s Super Bowl runs Smith was the most dominant at his position. The Hall of Famer made the Pro Bowl 11 times and won two Defensive Player of the Year Awards over 19 seasons, 15 in Buffalo. His 200 career sacks still rank as the most ever.


Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB

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During the Panthers relatively short history, there hasn’t been a bigger difference-maker than Newton. The first overall pick in the 2011 draft, Newton won Offensive Rookie of the Year and was league MVP while leading the Panthers to the Super Bowl four years later. He made three Pro Bowls in 11 seasons, with 10 years in Carolina.


Chicago Bears: Walter Payton, RB

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Payton established himself on the short list of the greatest running backs ever over 13 seasons in Chicago. He made the Pro Bowl nine times, won MVP in 1977, and rushed for over 1,000 yards 10 times. Payton’s 16,726 career rushing yards still ranks second all-time behind only Emmitt Smith.


Cincinnati Bengals: Anthony Munoz, OT

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Joe Burrow is on a trajectory to become Cincinnati’s greatest player ever, but Munoz still stands out as its greatest at the moment. The Hall of Fame left tackle made 11 Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro nine times in 13 seasons with the Bengals.


Cleveland Browns: Jim Brown, RB

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Considered by many to be the greatest running back to ever play, Brown led the league in rushing in eight of his nine seasons and won the MVP three times. Despite his short career, Brown still ranks 11th all-time in rushing yards and sixth all-time in rushing touchdowns.


Dallas Cowboys: Emmitt Smith, RB

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Of all the great players who have worn the Cowboys star, none have more career accolades than Smith. The Hall of Fame running back is the all-time leader in rushing attempts, yards, and touchdowns following his 15-year career. He made the Pro Bowl eight times, won one MVP, and rushed for over 1,000 yards in 11 consecutive seasons.


Denver Broncos: John Elway, QB

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Elway played 16 seasons with the Broncos and was considered among the elite quarterbacks in the league for most of that time, making nine Pro Bowls. He won the MVP in 1987 and two Super Bowls late in his career.


Detroit Lions: Barry Sanders, RB

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Sanders would hold far more records if he didn’t hang up his cleats after only ten seasons. He led the NFL in rushing four times, winning Offensive Player of the Year twice and league MVP in 1997. The Detroit legend still ranks fourth all-time in rushing despite his relatively short career.


Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers, QB

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Rodgers edges out the quarterback he replaced, Brett Favre, as the best in Packers history. Before departing for the Jets, Rodgers won four MVPs and made 10 Pro Bowls over 18 seasons. He also led the Packers to one Super Bowl victory.


Houston Texans: J.J. Watt, DE

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Watt made quite an impression in 10 seasons with the Texans before concluding his career in Arizona. He won the Defensive Player of the Year Award three times and was an All-Pro in half his seasons with Houston.


Indianapolis Colts: Peyton Manning, QB

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It’s difficult to imagine any Colt surpassing the career Manning had with the team, playing 13 seasons with four MVP Awards and one Super Bowl victory. After leaving for Denver in 2012, he won one more MVP and Super Bowl to establish himself as an all-time NFL great further. Manning ranks third all-time in passing yards and passing touchdowns in league history.


Jacksonville Jaguars: Jimmy Smith, WR

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The Jaguars have seen very mixed results on the field in their history, but Smith set the bar high during his 11 seasons with the team. The wideout had over 1,000 yards receiving nine times, making five Pro Bowls.


Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes, QB

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Mahomes has only six NFL seasons under his belt, but his accomplishments are already astounding. He’s won two Super Bowls and two MVP Awards and made the Pro Bowl in all five seasons as a starter. His 105.7 Passer Rating through the 2022 season is the best all-time.


Las Vegas Raiders: Tim Brown, WR

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Overshadowed at wideout during his career by Jerry Rice, Brown was elite in his own right and spent 16 of his 17 seasons in black and silver. The Hall of Famer made nine Pro Bowls and had a streak of nine consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons from 1993-2001. He still ranks seventh all-time in receptions and receiving yards.


Los Angeles Chargers: Philip Rivers, QB

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Current Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert has a chance to surpass Rivers as the greatest Charger ever, but it won’t be easy. Rivers played 16 seasons with the Chargers, making eight Pro Bowls and finishing top four in the Offensive Player of the Year voting four times. Long-time Chargers Dan Fouts, Junior Seau, and LaDainian Tomlinson also have strong arguments as the best Chargers player to ever strap on a helmet.


Los Angeles Rams: Aaron Donald, DT

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Rams fans should enjoy Donald’s greatness while they still can, as one of the best defensive players in the history of the game. During his nine-year career, Donald has won three Defensive Player of the Year Awards and been an All-Pro seven times as one of the truly great interior pass rushers the NFL has ever seen.


Miami Dolphins: Dan Marino, QB

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Marino is the easy choice as the top player in Dolphins history despite his lack of a Super Bowl win. He burst onto the scene, winning an MVP in only his second season and finished top three in the MVP voting three times in his first four years. He made nine Pro Bowls in his 17-year career with Miami, leading the league in passing yards five times.


Minnesota Vikings: Fran Tarkenton, QB

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Tarkenton played 13 of his 18 seasons in Minnesota, making the Pro Bowl five times as a Viking and winning the MVP in 1975. He’s still fondly remembered as the best quarterback in franchise history and was ahead of his time as a mobile quarterback.


New England Patriots: Tom Brady, QB

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Brady is an easy answer as the best player in Patriots history, if not the history of the NFL. He won six of his seven Super Bowls with New England and led the franchise to nine Super Bowl appearances. The 2000 sixth-round pick played 20 seasons with the team, winning three MVP Awards and making the Pro Bowl 14 times before one more Super Bowl and Pro Bowl appearance over three seasons in Tampa Bay. He retired following the 2022 season as the NFL’s all-time leader in many quarterback stats, including completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns.


New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees, QB

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Brees changed the fortunes of the Saints franchise when he signed in 2006 after five seasons with the Chargers. Over 15 seasons in New Orleans, he led the NFL in passing seven times and made 12 Pro Bowls. Brees was also the MVP of Super Bowl XLIV.


New York Giants: Lawrence Taylor, LB

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Taylor’s remarkable 13-year NFL career included three Defensive Player of the Year Awards, one MVP, and two Super Bowls championships with the Giants. He finished his career with 142 career sacks, including a league-high 20.5 in his 1986 MVP season.


New York Jets: Joe Namath, QB

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The quarterback position has been a struggle for much of the Jets history, with the notable exception of Namath’s career with the team from 1965-1976. His accomplishments include the AFL Rookie of the Year, AFL Player of the Year in 1968, and Super Bowl III MVP. The Hall of Famer also made five Pro Bowls.


Philadelphia Eagles: Reggie White, DE

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White played the first eight seasons of his 15-year NFL career in Philly, and was arguably the league’s top pass rusher for the majority of that time. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 1987 and finished top 10 in the voting in six of his eight years with the team. The 13-time Pro Bowler still ranks second all-time in sacks with 198.


Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, QB

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Of all the great players Pittsburgh has rostered in franchise history, Roethlisberger stands out as an upper-echelon quarterback in the NFL’s passing era. Big Ben threw for more than 64,000 yards in 18 seasons with the team, making six Pro Bowls and winning Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2004. He also won two Super Bowls.


28 of 32

San Francisco 49ers: Jerry Rice, WR

San Francisco 49ers: Jerry Rice, WR

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49ers Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young had the advantage of passing to the greatest wide receiver of all time in Rice, who played with the franchise from 1985-2000. His accomplishments at the position are off the charts, including 13 Pro Bowls, 10 All-Pros, three Super Bowl championships, and two Offensive Player of the Year Awards. Rice remains the league’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns.


Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson, QB

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Seahawks fans have a love-hate relationship with Wilson following his ten seasons in Seattle, but he guided the franchise during the most successful era in their history. He made the Pro Bowl in nine of his ten seasons, leading the Seahawks to two Super Bowls and one championship. Wilson also finished top four in Offensive Player of the Year voting four times.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derrick Brooks, LB

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The leader of a truly elite defense in the late 1990s and early 2000’s, Brooks made the Hall of Fame after making 11 Pro Bowls and winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2002. Brooks recorded over 1,700 tackles in his 14-year career and also had 25 interceptions.


Tennessee Titans: Bruce Matthews, OL

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Matthews’ consistency, longevity, and loyalty to the Oilers/Titans organization makes him stand out as the best player in franchise history. He played all 19 seasons with the team, starting 193 regular season games and making 14 consecutive Pro Bowls from 1988-2001.


Washington Commanders: Darrell Green, CB

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The undersized Green turned out to be one of the great steals of the 1983 draft, going 28th overall. He played all 20 career seasons in Washington, making seven Pro Bowls and recording 54 interceptions. The Hall of Famer won two Super Bowls with the franchise.

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