The 17 most significant non-QB journeymen in NFL history

The most significant non-QB journeymen in NFL history:

The most significant non-QB journeymen in NFL history: Ted Washington, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Andre Rison, Ricky Proehl, Adrian Peterson, Marshall Newhouse, Lorenzo Neal, Matthew Mulligan, Tim McKyer,,,,

Starting for a sixth NFL team throughout their careers, several players have joined an exclusive club this season. Not many non-quarterback players have blazed this trail in modern NFL history.

Here are the non-QBs to have reached six-team starter status since the 1970 merger.

1. Ted Washington

Joining Sam Adams as a mammoth D-tackle who enjoyed a long career, Washington was even more nomadic than his big-man contemporary. The 360-plus-pound defender played 17 seasons and started for seven teams, peaking during a six-year Buffalo stretch. Washington assisted the post-Super Bowls Bills to three playoff brackets and helped the 2001 Bears form one of this era’s best defenses, earning All-Pro honors with the 13-3 team. A first-round 49ers pick, Washington made his way to Denver in 1994 and circled back to the AFC West as a Raider in the mid-2000s. In between: a cameo with the Super Bowl-winning Patriots in 2003. Washington played until age 39, finishing up with the Browns.

2. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

DRC popped up in some memorable spots and became a well-traveled player even in his prime. The athletic cornerback helped the Cardinals to the 2008 NFC title game as a rookie and made the Pro Bowl a year later. But the Cards included Rodgers-Cromartie in a 2011 trade for QB Kevin Kolb, shipping him to the Eagles as part of their 2011 “Dream Team” effort. After that combusted, Rodgers-Cromartie rebuilt his value on the 2013 AFC champion Broncos. This enabled a nice free agency deal from the Giants, with whom he helped to the 2016 playoffs with a six-INT season. DRC finished with one start apiece for the Raiders and Washington.

3. Andre Rison

Rison’s winding journey produced more ups than downs, with the five-time Pro Bowler posting five 1,000-yard seasons and catching a touchdown pass in the Packers’ Super Bowl XXXI win. The Browns (technically the Ravens by winter 1996), Jaguars, Packers, and Chiefs also cut Rison, whose original team — the Colts — included him in a blockbuster trade for Jeff George’s draft rights after one season. Still, Rison shined in Atlanta as the team’s No. 1 receiver for five years. He resurfaced as a No. 1 target for a 13-3 Chiefs team in 1997, securing a Kansas City extension, and finished with 84 touchdown receptions in 12 seasons.

4. Ricky Proehl

A key early-1990s Cardinals cog, Proehl mostly served as a complementary target during one of the receiver position’s longest careers. After missing the playoffs in his first nine seasons, the 17-year vet played for four Super Bowl-bound teams from 1999-2006. Post-Phoenix, Proehl played for the Seahawks and Bears before catching on with the Rams at an ideal time. He ensured the “Greatest Show on Turf” Rams made Super Bowl XXXIV by scoring the game-winning touchdown in the 1999 NFC title game. While Proehl later somehow caught two game-tying TDs that preceded Patriots Super Bowl walk-offs, as a Ram and Panther, he earned another ring on the 2006 Colts and finished with nearly 9,000 receiving yards.

5. Adrian Peterson

Easily this club’s most accomplished player, Peterson joined these ranks in Week 9 by replacing Derrick Henry in Tennessee. The Vikings legend-turned-RB-for-hire has now started for six teams. Peterson won three rushing titles in Minnesota and will head to the Hall of Fame based on his Vikings work. But since 2017, “All Day” has traveled to New Orleans, Arizona, Washington, Detroit, and Tennessee. The 36-year-old back has endured major injuries, topped 1,000 yards in Washington in 2018, and scored his 125th career TD in his first Titans game. This era’s top back is less than 500 rushing yards away from Barry Sanders for fourth all-time.

6. Marshall Newhouse

Serviceable offensive linemen are valuable in the modern NFL when practice-time reductions and limited contact can delay youngsters’ development. Newhouse has been with eight teams and started for six, having been both a full-timer at left tackle and right tackle. Newhouse booked his first starting gig for the 15-1 Packers in 2011. After his Green Bay stay, the TCU alum started for the Bengals, Giants, Raiders, Panthers, and Patriots from 2014-19. Newhouse was a first-stringer for four playoff teams, either as a regular or a replacement, and spent time on the 2020 AFC South champion Titans.

7. Lorenzo Neal

One of the modern era’s top fullbacks, the 2000s All-Decade-teamer started for seven teams and is the oldest skill-position (technically, fullbacks qualify) first-team All-Pro in NFL history. Neal accomplished that at age 37, paving lanes for LaDainian Tomlinson in his record-shattering 2006 season. The four-time Pro Bowler maximized free agency, being traded just once — from the Jets to the Bucs in 1998 — and playing 16 seasons. After four Saints years and one-offs in Tampa and New York, Neal played multiple seasons with the Titans, Bengals, and Chargers before closing his career out with the 2008 Ravens. Neal’s most famous NFL act: starting the “Music City Miracle.”

8. Matthew Mulligan

Although Mulligan needed one-start cameos with multiple teams to qualify, he managed to get to six-team first-stringer status in only his seventh season. Never traded, the blocking tight end spent time with 10 teams. Undrafted out of Maine, Mulligan spent three years with the Jets to start his career before migrating to the Rams, Patriots, Bears, Titans, Bills, and Lions from 2012-16. He caught just 18 passes and scored just two touchdowns but remained a valued commodity, logging starts with all but the Lions, who still used him as a special teams regular in a 2016 playoff campaign.

9. Tim McKyer

Eric “Sleeping With” Bieniemy stands as Chris Berman’s NFL nickname apex, but Tim “Frequent Flyer” McKyer worked on multiple levels. McKyer started for seven teams from 1986-97, collected three Super Bowl rings, and intercepted 33 passes. The third-round pick started three San Francisco seasons (including Super Bowl XXIII). The brash corner wore out his welcome with the 49ers and Dolphins, being traded in consecutive years. McKyer tied Deion Sanders with six INTs for the memorable 1991 Falcons squad and was a regular starter until age 33. He finished his career with stops in Detroit, Pittsburgh, Carolina, and Denver, recovering a fumble in his final game — the Broncos’ Super Bowl XXXII win.

10. Brandon Marshall

Marshall made a career out of post-relocation success and lines record books in a few places. Marshall caught an NFL-record 21 passes against the Colts in 2009, but the Broncos traded their ex-fourth-round success story months later. A six-time Pro Bowler who experienced early-career off-field trouble, Marshall remains No. 1 in Bears and Jets single-season receiving yardage. And two of Marshall’s eight 1,000-yard seasons came during his Dolphins stint (2010-11). While the big target never played in a playoff game in a career that ended with Giants and Seahawks stops, he remains in the top 20 on the career catches list (970).

11. Marquand Manuel

A future NFL defensive coordinator, Manuel worked with numerous DCs during his playing career. The former sixth-round Bengals pick managed to start for six teams despite playing just eight seasons. None of these team switches involved trades, and Manuel played in four time zones. Following two Bengals years, Manuel played two Seahawks seasons. He intercepted a pass in the 2005 NFC title game and started in Super Bowl XL. He went full nomad after that game, playing for the Packers, Panthers, Broncos, and Lions over the next four years. Counting his 10-season assistant career, Manuel has been with 11 teams.

12. Joe Kelly

Seven of Kelly’s 11 NFL seasons transpired before free agency’s outset, giving him a high degree of difficulty to reach six-team starter status. But the former first-round pick made it happen by bouncing around over his final four seasons. Beginning his career with the Bengals, the linebacker was a four-year starter in Cincinnati. This period included a start in Super Bowl XXIII. The Bengals traded Kelly to the Jets before the 1990 season. Working mostly as an inside linebacker, Kelly did well to see the country post-free agency, landing with the Raiders (1993), Rams (’94), Packers (’95), and Eagles (’96).

13. Vonnie Holliday

Known for his lengthy stays with the Packers and Dolphins, Holliday lands here because of late-career stops. Lasting 15 seasons, the defensive end started three games with the 2009 Broncos, two with Washington in 2010, and one in his final season — with the 2012 Cardinals. Holliday was a full-time starter with the Packers and Dolphins from 1998-2008, with a stopover in Kansas City in between, and finished with 62.5 sacks. He played on five playoff-bound teams but did not suit up for a conference championship game. The versatile defensive lineman did land a few solid contracts during a productive career.

14. Jared Cook

The current Chargers have two members of the six-team starter club, though Cook is the only one still healthy for the AFC contenders. A 2009 Titans third-round pick, Cook has managed to remain a sought-after free agent well into his 30s. He has both mixed in regular-season success — Pro Bowls in Oakland and New Orleans — with one of the most pivotal receptions in modern playoff history (a third-and-20 grab from Aaron Rodgers to set up a Packers upset win). A Cook fumble in last year’s playoffs keyed the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl run. Cook signed free-agent deals with the Rams (2013), Packers (2016), Raiders (2017), Saints (2019), and Chargers (2021)

15. Jason Babin

So well-traveled he played for nine teams and circled back to one of them, Babin became a six-team starter in 2014 with the Jets. The edge rusher began as a Texan as a 2004 first-rounder but was traded straight up for Seahawks safety Michael Boulware in 2007. That opened the journeyman floodgates. Babin played for seven teams from 2008-15, changing cities in-season thrice. He displayed a clear peak, combining for 30.5 sacks from 2010-11 — with the Titans and in his second Eagles stint. Babin also started for the 2008 Chiefs and 2012 Jaguars. He wrapped his career with the Ravens in 2015.

16. Sam Adams

One of the largest players in NFL history, Adams stuck around for 14 seasons and started at least 10 games for six teams. A top-10 pick in 1994, the imposing defensive tackle teamed with Cortez Kennedy during the latter half of the Hall of Famer’s Seahawks career before working with Tony Siragusa with the famed 2000 Ravens. Adams was 2-for-2 in Pro Bowls as a Raven and in 2004 added a third Hawaii trip after helping the Bills post one of the top defensive DVOA marks in history. In between, Adams stopped through as a starter for the veteran-laden 2002 AFC champion Raiders squad. He finished up his 177-start career with the Bengals and Broncos.

17. Oday Aboushi

As part of an offensive line makeover, Chargers brought in the guard-for-hire this offseason. Although Aboushi suffered a torn ACL early in the season, he joined this rare club as a starter for a sixth franchise. A Jets fifth-round pick in 2013, Aboushi has continued to be viewed as a viable starter for nearly a decade. The Jets cut bait after two years, leading Aboushi to the Texans, who used him as a spot starter for their 2015 and ’16 playoff squads. The Virginia product then moseyed to Seattle, Arizona, and Detroit before landing a one-year, $1.6 million deal with the Chargers.

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