NFL Veterans We'd Like to See 'Ring Chase' in 2021 Free Agency
Owning a Super Bowl ring isn't a requirement for NFL greatness. Several Pro Football Hall of Famers haven't won championships, including Dan Marino, Deacon Jones and Barry Sanders. However, winning titles is the ultimate goal for most NFL players, which is probably why 43-year-old Tom Brady is still out there chasing rings.
Having a realistic shot at lifting the Lombardi Trophy can be a motivating factor for aging veterans in free agency, and that's something at which legendary running back Adrian Peterson recently hinted.
"That would definitely be something I'm interested in," Peterson told TMZ of playing with Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "If they want me to be a part of it, I'll be a part of it for sure. Because I'm definitely trying to add a trophy to my resume."
With free agency right around the corner—it's slated to kick off March 17—now is a perfect time to examine Peterson and some other longtime NFL veterans we'd love to see sign with contenders this offseason.
We won't get too deep into specifics here as team needs and players' contractual desires could change dramatically in the coming weeks. We will, however, examine exactly why these pending free agents could potentially cap Hall of Fame resumes with Super Bowl rings in 2021.
Aside from winning a Super Bowl, wideout Larry Fitzgerald has accomplished just about everything a pass-catcher could hope to accomplish at the pro level. The longtime Arizona Cardinals star has more than 17,000 career receiving yards on his resume to go with 121 touchdown receptions, 11 Pro Bowl selections and a first-team All-Pro nod.
Only Jerry Rice has more career receiving yards than Fitzgerald.
In 2016, Fitzgerald was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year. He was also named to the NFL's 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Fitzgerald has played in a Super Bowl, but he's never won one. With the 37-year-old veteran still contemplating his future, perhaps he'll consider trying to remedy that in 2021.
"Everything ... will take care of itself," Fitzgerald said, per Cameron Cox of KPNX Arizona.
Fitzgerald should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer even without a Super Bowl ring, but we'd love to see him sign with a contender this offseason and add that proverbial feather to his cap.
Wide receiver A.J. Green isn't quite as accomplished as Fitzgerald, but he's still teetering on the edge of Hall of Fame territory. The 32-year-old pass-catcher has produced 9,430 receiving yards and 65 touchdowns in a 10-year span and has seven Pro Bowl appearances under his belt. He has also been a second-team All-Pro two different times.
Unfortunately, Green has played his entire career with the Cincinnati Bengals, a franchise for which postseason success has been fleeting. They have reached the playoffs five times during Green's tenure but have never managed to notch a victory.
While Cincinnati has found its next franchise quarterback in Joe Burrow, it is probably still a few years away from title contention and won just four games this past season. The offseason should provide Green with the opportunity to jump ship and land with a team ready to compete now.
Green likely isn't in the Hall of Fame conversation just yet. However, he could cement his case by topping the 10,000-yard mark, adding a few more postseason appearances and, of course, putting a Super Bowl ring in his trophy case.
Like Adrian Peterson (more on him in a bit), Frank Gore is a future Hall of Fame running back with no championships on his resume. Longevity has been his calling card for the past several years—he remained productive at 37 this past season—and that longevity has paid off.
Gore now ranks third on the NFL's all-time rushing list. His 16,000 career rushing yards are behind only Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton. However, he isn't quite ready to hang it up and has discussed his desire to return to the San Francisco 49ers—the team that drafted him and a potential 2021 contender.
"I'd come back fast," Gore told 95.7 The Game (h/t Michael Nowels of the Mercury News). "Man, I would love to wear that No. 21 jersey one more time."
In addition to a ridiculous amount of rushing yards, Gore also has five Pro Bowl appearances on his resume. He doesn't have a ring, though, and we'd love to see that change this season.
Justin Houston has had opportunities to chase a Super Bowl with both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Indianapolis Colts. However, the prolific pass-rusher has yet to add a Lombardi Trophy to his list of accomplishments.
That list includes four Pro Bowls, one first-team All-Pro nod, an NFL sack title and 97.5 career quarterback takedowns. The 32-year-old defender is still productive, too, having amassed 19 sacks over the past two seasons with Indianapolis.
Houston should surpass the 100-sack mark in 2021, and if he continues to play for a few more seasons, he'll have a good chance to crack the top 20 on the all-time list. Simeon Rice holds the No. 20 spot at 122. That would put Houston firmly in the Hall of Fame conversation, but his case would be boosted tremendously by a Super Bowl ring.
Returning to Indianapolis could help Houston earn a title if the team is able to fill its quarterback vacancy. A return to Kansas City or a move to a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could also put him in title contention.
Adrian Peterson's desire to chase a ring is completely understandable. He has little else to accomplish as a pro, aside from perhaps climbing higher on the all-time rushing list. Peterson hasn't compiled quite as many rushing yards as Frank Gore, but his 14,820 are the fifth-most in NFL history.
Additionally, Peterson has seven Pro Bowl appearances, four first-team All-Pro nods, three rushing titles and an NFL MVP award on his resume. He topped the fabled 2,000-yard rushing mark back in 2012, the same year he was named MVP and Offensive Player of the Year.
However, Peterson doesn't have a Super Bowl ring and only has limited experience in the postseason. He has appeared in five playoff games and won just one, all of which came with the Minnesota Vikings. He hasn't even been to the playoffs since 2015.
Peterson is arguably the greatest running back of his generation and one of the best ball-carriers of all time. He's already a future Hall of Famer, but a Super Bowl ring would be a sweet bit of icing on the cake for the 35-year-old.
We'd also love to see another pending free-agent Peterson add a ring to his resume in 2021.
Longtime Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson may not be the legitimate shut-down cornerback he once was—he allowed an opposing passer rating of 98.2 in 2020—but he's one of the most accomplished defenders scheduled to hit the open market.
Peterson has been named to the Pro Bowl eight times, earning nods as both a cornerback and a return specialist. He has also been named a first-team All-Pro three times.
For now, Peterson hasn't ruled out a return to Arizona.
However, Peterson's best path to a Super Bowl probably lies outside Arizona. While the Cardinals were close to the playoffs in 2020, they're not on the level of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs or Green Bay Packers.
Peterson probably already has a Hall of Fame-caliber resume, but he could put a stamp on it by adding that elusive ring.
There probably isn't a player fans would love to see get a ring more than J.J. Watt. Not only is the former Houston Texans star one of his generation's best players on the field, but he's also been one of football's most charitable personalities off it.
Watt's Hurricane Harvey relief fund alone raised more than $37 million to rebuild homes in the Houston area.
As for on-field accolades, Watt has many. He's a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, a five-time first-team All-Pro and a five-time Pro Bowler, and he has 101 career sacks.
Watt and the Texans parted ways last week, and he has already drawn interest from the Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns, among others, per ESPN's Ed Werder.
Given the amount of interest in his services, Watt should take some time to decide which team would give him his best shot at a ring in 2021. He has little else to accomplish as a pro, and we'd love to see him finally play in the Super Bowl.
Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.