Loyalty goes a long way…
Loyalty is an uncommon phenomenon in today’s NFL, as it’s often difficult players, coaches and front offices to get on the same page.
However, there are 12 stars guaranteed roster spots this season who stand out as having the most steadfast of commitments to their current teams. It takes all sides to make these marriages work for the long haul, yet the player has to want to make it work.
Ranked based on star power, value, length of tenure and difficulty of circumstances they’ve endured.
Read on for a look at the most faithful big names in the game today,
Cameron Wake, defensive end, Miami Dolphins
After two seasons and 39 sacks in the CFL, it was clear Wake was dominant enough to go south of the border. The Dolphins gave him his shot, and he’s rewarded them with consistently great play.
Shabby quarterback play and lackluster talent have resulted in one playoff berth for Miami since Wake’s arrival in 2009. He has 92 sacks in nine years and even missed nine games in 2015 with a torn Achilles.
Despite the major injury, Wake’s on-field performance has yet to really drop off ahead of his age-36 campaign. It’s too bad the team around him hasn’t achieved more.
Andrew Luck, quarterback, Indianapolis Colts
Yes, Luck holds onto the ball too long and doesn’t use his mobility enough to escape the pocket when defenders are collapsing it. That said, the Colts have failed to build a competent offensive line and roster around him.
Luck got bruised and battered as he carried bad Indianapolis teams to three straight playoff trips at the dawn of his career. The punishment took its toll, as Luck missed nine games in 2015 and all of last season.
Never so much as hinting at playing for anyone else, Luck will be 29 in 2018 and Indy has zero viable receivers beyond T.Y. Hilton. The signal-caller is a gem the Colts must protect at all costs moving forward.
Kyle Williams, defensive tackle, Buffalo Bills
Buffalo made the playoffs in 2017 for the first time since 1999. Williams’ time with the Bills stretches back to 2006, when he was a fifth-round draft pick out of LSU.
The Tigers program is known for producing numerous NFL-caliber defenders, but Williams was overlooked as a product of the system. He’s proven otherwise as a five-time Pro Bowler who finally got his first taste of postseason action as a 12th-year pro.
Williams had to feel such satisfaction that he stuck with the program after that achievement. He’ll remain a key piece to the Bills’ defense until he retires.
Thomas Davis, linebacker, Carolina Panthers
The partnership between the Panthers and Davis has indeed gone both ways. Carolina never gave up on the veteran as he persevered through three torn ACLs. Every time Davis came back stronger and better.
Davis was the 14th overall pick in the 2005 NFL draft and has never played for another team. He’s effective dropping in coverage, can pressure the quarterback as a blitzer and has a nose for the ball versus the run.
Carolina has seen Davis and Luke Kuechly emerge as one of the NFL’s premier linebacker tandems, a driving force behind the dominant Panthers defense that advanced to Super Bowl 50.
Joe Staley, offensive tackle, San Francisco 49ers
In Staley’s first four seasons, San Francisco was at a standstill, with no semblance of its prior success anywhere in sight. Then the 49ers hired Jim Harbaugh, and everything changed.
Thanks to Harbaugh’s leadership, the proud franchise advanced to three straight NFC title games. Staley’s exceptional job at left tackle was a big reason the offense was able to thrive during that period, too.
For all the turnover that’s happened in San Francisco since Staley was a first-round pick in 2007, he’s still there. Now the Niners are approaching a new era with coach Kyle Shanahan and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, whose blind side Staley will protect for the time being.
Philip Rivers, quarterback, Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers made the postseason in each of Rivers’ initial four years as a starter, but have returned only once since. They’re notorious for slow-starting seasons and underachieving.
Few of the problems Los Angeles has are Rivers’ fault. He’s continued to play at an elite level and goes almost unnoticed in the top-tier quarterback discussion despite having thrown for over 50,000 yards.
Rivers is a seven-time Pro Bowler who could use a Super Bowl to cement his legacy as an all-time great at his position.
Terrell Suggs, linebacker, Baltimore Ravens
The 10th overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft has been a dominant force off the edge ever since he arrived in Baltimore.
Suggs has had his share of major injuries across 15 seasons, including two torn Achilles tendons. That didn’t stop him from racking up 11 sacks in 2017, proving he still has enough in the tank for at least one more year.
Injuries and age never caused the Ravens to part ways with their longtime defensive cornerstone. Then again, Suggs has never given them much reason to doubt based on his consistency on Sundays.
Eli Manning, quarterback, New York Giants
Since 2011, the Giants have ranked in the top half of the NFL in rushing once. Manning has always been a slightly inaccurate, interception-prone quarterback.
However, he’s also delivered two Super Bowls during his time in the Big Apple. Manning did manipulate the draft process in 2004 to end up in New York, but to his credit, he’s never shown any signs of disloyalty.
The Giants thought enough of Manning to draft running back Saquon Barkley No. 2 overall in 2018. Now it’s up to the soft-spoken field general to show his play is game for one more championship push.
Matthew Stafford, quarterback, Detroit Lions
Going back to Philip Rivers for a second, he has 23 fourth-quarter comebacks in 12 full years as a starter. Stafford has 24 in the past seven seasons.
Among Stafford’s 60 career wins, 43 percent of them have come from fourth-quarter heroics. The Lions have had horrible rushing attacks and inconsistent defenses over the years that have held them back.
Stafford has nevertheless stuck with the franchise that drafted him first overall in 2009. Perhaps a leadership change with new coach Matt Patricia will be what the Lions need to reward Stafford’s undying loyalty and success under such adverse conditions.
Tom Brady, quarterback New England Patriots
Ahead of the 2018 campaign, “Tom Terrific” once again restructured his contract to lace it with more incentives and lowered his base salary. That’s the type of team-first mentality the “Patriot Way” preaches, and why New England is the NFL’s steadiest winner.
Brady was named NFL MVP for the third time in his career at age 40, and has set the record for passing yards in each of the last two Super Bowls.
New England has won five championships with Brady, a sixth-round pick in 2000. He’s never tried to force his way out regardless of circumstances, though it’s easy to stay put when winning is so common.
Drew Brees, quarterback, New Orleans Saints
Had the Chargers not drafted Rivers, Brees would probably still be there. Instead, he hit the open market in 2006.
The Saints took a risk on Brees despite a career-threatening shoulder injury he suffered in the Pro Bowl, and the rest is history. He’s at or near the top of almost every major passing category.
Brees was the Super Bowl XLIV MVP and stuck with New Orleans through salary-cap woes and horrendous defensive units. There’s no sign the 39-year-old is slowing down, so the Saints still have championship hopes with him under center.
Larry Fitzgerald, receiver Arizona Cardinals
There would be far less credibility for the Cardinals as an organization if not for Fitzgerald’s sustained greatness and undying loyalty.
Fitzgerald hasn’t left Arizona since being drafted third overall in 2004. Awful quarterback play and numerous non-winning records haven’t caused one of the all-time best pass-catchers to waver.
The 2018 campaign will be his 15th and possibly last, and although it appears he won’t earn a Super Bowl, Fitzgerald holds the record for most receiving yards in a single postseason with 546 and has over 100 receptions in each of the past three seasons.