At the highest level of professional sport, championships are what truly define legacies. In the player empowerment era, it’s become more common for athletes to eschew their allegiance to the team that drafted them in pursuit of personal fulfillment.
Kevin Durant’s recent trade request from the Brooklyn Nets got us at The 33rd Team thinking about what recent comparables we’ve seen in the NFL — players who left an organization in pursuit of greater personal and team success. Here we’ve assembled a list of five NFL players whose actions over the past 20 years show that ring chasing at the Superstar level is not exclusive to the NBA by any means:
Odell Beckham Jr.
OBJ remains one of the best free agents available on the market at the moment. However, looking at his past, he falls into this same category of players ring chasing even after signing a massive contract.
In August of 2018, Beckham signed a 5-year, $90 million contract extension that made him the highest paid wide receiver in the league. Less than one year later, he was traded to the Browns in exchange for first and third-round picks as well as safety Jabrill Peppers. This trade was more the Giants doing rather than Odell requesting to get out of New York. OBJ was seen as a distraction and then GM Dave Gettleman decided to cut ties with the star receiver in favor of rebuilding the roster.
However, this past offseason, it was Odell who wanted out of the Browns organization after a clear rift between the receiver and quarterback Baker Mayfield began to form. At his request, Beckham was eventually released and signed with the star-studded Los Angeles Rams. Joining forces with Cooper Kupp, Matt Stafford, and Sean McVay eventually paid off and OBJ finally got the ring he’s been working for.
Murray left the Cowboys after the 2014 season in which he led the league in rushes, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and rushing yards per game. He was named the Offensive Player of the Year, Pro-Bowl starter and First-Team AP All-Pro. Coming off of his rookie contract, Murray chose to leave Dallas in free agency to join the cross-division rival Philadelphia Eagles who gave him a 5 year $40 million which was the third highest APY for a running back in 2015.
Murray’s stint in Philadelphia was a short one. He was traded to Tennessee after just one year in the city of brotherly love, where he rushed for 1,287 yards in his first season with the team, but never came close to winning a Super Bowl ring.
After his short-lived retirement, Favre was traded to the Jets from the Packers in favor of the much younger and highly touted Aaron Rodgers. Like Murray, he spent just one season in his new location before moving on to a third spot in 3 years.
Mike Tannenbaum who was the New York Jets general manager responsible for bringing Favre into the organization had this to say about the acquisition: “We traded for him in 2008 because we believed he would make a meaningful difference to help us get over the hump to beat Tom Brady for the division and get to the Super Bowl.”
At the end of the season, Favre asked to be released and Tannenbaum obliged. “We were bringing on a new head coach in Rex Ryan and felt like it made sense organizationally to move on in order to pair our new head coach with a new quarterback at the same time.”
Favre settled in Minnesota — Green Bay’s archrival — and had a very successful 2009 season in which they made it to the NFC Championship game before losing to the “Bountygate” New Orleans Saints.
Randy Moss left Minnesota in 2005 after being traded to the then Oakland Raiders. Moss has long been criticized for saying “I play when I want to play,” which was the impetus for Minnesota moving on from the Hall of Famer. Moss’ Oakland career was lackluster when looking at his entire career, tallying just 1,558 yards and 11 touchdowns in 29 games — figures that he surpassed in just one 16-game season on multiple occasions during his career.
After his two-year pit stop in Oakland, Moss was again traded to New England where he scored 23 touchdowns in his first season with the team – the same season the Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season and lost in Super Bowl XLII.
For all of his personal accolades, Moss never won a Super Bowl. He will go down as a top 3 wide receiver of all time, but even bouncing around for much of the 2005-2012 timeframe, he was unable to capture the elusive title of “Super Bowl Champion.”
Marshall, who was originally drafted by Denver, spent time on 6 different rosters during his 13-year career. He was also traded three different times. During his 13-year career, he caught 1,000 yards or more on 8 separate occasions. Considering the fact that he was learning a new offense and getting used to a new QB almost every other offseason, this is incredibly impressive. Arguably the best seasons of his career took place in 2012 (his first in Chicago) and 2015 (his first with the Jets) where he put up more than 1,500 receiving yards and 11 or more touchdowns.