11 NFL Legends Who Demanded to Be Traded
Many NFL legends spend their entire career with one franchise, but even superstars occasionally demand a trade.
For various reasons, the relationship between the player and team soured. Sometimes it's as simple as a prolonged stretch of losing years or a stylistic change, while unsuccessful negotiations and personal reasons have also sparked trade requests.
Now, who exactly is considered an NFL legend is subjective, but we have Jones—the 20th-most prolific receiver in NFL history—and Rodgers in that category. As a result, they've joined a not-so-large list of standouts who have asked to be dealt.
The list is ordered alphabetically, beginning with a pair of predraft trade demands.
Predraft Demands: John Elway and Eli Manning, QB
As the projected No. 1 overall picks, John Elway and Eli Manning both entered the NFL with sky-high expectations. At the time, though, neither player was a definite legend.
That part arrived later.
In 1983, Elway refused to play for the Baltimore Colts. They drafted him anyway, but Elway—a second-round pick of the New York Yankees—threatened to pursue a baseball career. Baltimore eventually relented and sent Elway to the Denver Broncos, where he enjoyed a Hall of Fame career with two Super Bowl rings and a league MVP.
Two decades later, the San Diego Chargers took Manning at No. 1 in the 2004 draft. They soon shipped him to the New York Giants in exchange for Philip Rivers. The trade worked for both sides, though Manning won two Super Bowls.
Jerome Bettis, RB
One of the most imposing runners in NFL history, Jerome Bettis is best known for his time on the Pittsburgh Steelers. However, "The Bus" began his career with the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams.
After winning 1993 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, he played two more seasons in Los Angeles. But when the Rams wanted to make Bettis a fullback, he asked for a trade. They sent him and a third-round pick to the Steelers for second- and fourth-rounders.
During his 10-year tenure with Pittsburgh, Bettis piled up 10,571 yards and 78 touchdowns. Both rank No. 2 in team history.
Bettis completed his Hall of Fame career with a Super Bowl victory in 2005, his final season.
Antonio Brown, WR
No receiver had a more productive decade in the 2010s than Antonio Brown. He became the first player in NFL history to record five straight 100-catch seasons from 2013-2017 before adding a sixth in 2018.
But the relationship between Brown and the Steelers crumbled.
Brown demanded a trade in the offseason following that 2018 campaign. Pittsburgh agreed to move on, talking to the Buffalo Bills before landing third- and fifth-round draft selections from the Oakland Raiders for the four-time AP All-Pro.
Brown, who never played a snap for the Raiders, appeared in one game for the New England Patriots in 2019. He joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020 and won a Super Bowl.
Eric Dickerson, RB
During the first four years of Eric Dickerson's career, he paced the NFL in rushing three times. Most notably, he set the single-season record with 2,105 yards in 1984.
The running back thought he deserved more money; the Rams disagreed. And so, the Indianapolis Colts landed an All-Pro in 1987. Dickerson headed to the Colts in exchange for three first-round picks and three second-round selections.
Unfortunately for the Colts, it didn't pan out as they hoped.
Dickerson had a strong finish to 1987 and topped 3,500 scrimmage yards over the next two seasons, putting the final touches on his Hall of Fame career. But the Colts never posted a record better than 9-7 and appeared in just one playoff game with Dickerson.
Marshall Faulk, RB
Similar to Dickerson 12 years earlier, Marshall Faulk wanted to renegotiate his contract in 1999. He'd racked up a career-high 2,227 scrimmage yards in the 1998 season.
And, once again, the Colts found themselves in a discussion with the Rams. This time around, however, Indianapolis traded its running back.
St. Louis acquired Faulk for a second- and fifth-round selection, and he immediately turned in a legendary year. He collected an NFL-record 2,429 yards from scrimmage—which included over 1,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving yards—and helped the Rams defeat the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV.
Faulk's departure opened a spot in Indy for fellow Hall of Fame runner Edgerrin James, who set franchise records in both yards (9,226) and touchdowns (64). The trade paid off for both teams.
Julio Jones, WR
For a decade, Julio Jones terrorized NFC defenses with the Atlanta Falcons. He amassed 848 catches for 12,896 yards, both of which are top-30 totals in NFL history.
But by 2021, the superstar wanted a change.
Jones demanded a trade—a possibility that had, per Sports Illustrated, been brewing for two years—and the Falcons found a suitor in the Titans. Tennessee shipped a second- and fourth-round pick to Atlanta for Jones and a sixth-round choice.
The future Hall of Famer leaves Atlanta as the franchise leader in receptions and yards, ranking second in touchdowns (60).
Brett Favre, QB
Prior to calling it a career in March 2008, Brett Favre had publicly flirted with retirement for a few years. After he made it official, the Green Bay Packers embraced the Aaron Rodgers era.
Favre did not.
Within four months, Favre decided he would return to Green Bay. Because the Packers had committed to Rodgers, they eventually agreed to trade Favre. Tampa Bay wanted the Hall of Fame quarterback, but he landed with the New York Jets.
Favre narrowly missed the postseason with New York, retired, then un-retired again and joined the Minnesota Vikings in 2009. He played two years in Minnesota before retiring for good.
Joe Montana, QB
Joe Montana is one of the most iconic players in football history. But even he couldn't escape the reality of the NFL.
From 1981-90, "Joe Cool" guided the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl titles. Montana earned four All-Pro honors, made seven Pro Bowls and won back-to-back league MVPs in 1989 and 1990.
During the 1991 preseason, however, an elbow injury ended Montana's year. Steve Young stepped in that season, then propelled the Niners to the NFC Championship Game the following season. San Francisco had to choose between Montana and Young, and they picked the latter.
Montana not only requested a trade but pinpointed his destination: Kansas City. The Niners made it happen, shipping him to the Chiefs for a first-round pick.
In 1993, Kansas City notched an 11-5 record and appeared in the AFC Championship Game. The next year, Montana's final season, ended with a 9-7 record and loss in the Wild Card Round.
Randy Moss, WR
Moss found a home on the New England Patriots, who sent a fourth-round pick to Oakland.
Moss soon quieted the critics that raised concerns about his locker-room fit. He caught 98 passes for 1,493 yards and an NFL-record 23 touchdowns. New England went 16-0 in the regular season before falling to Manning and the Giants in the Super Bowl.
Moss, a member of the 2018 Hall of Fame class, also topped 1,000 receiving yards in both 2008 and 2009 with the Patriots.
Aaron Rodgers, QB
As of this writing, the Aaron Rodgers saga is awaiting its conclusion. Although he's rumored to have said he doesn't want to return to the Green Bay Packers, it's possible that happens anyway.
After all, Rodgers has publicly said he loves the coaching staff, teammates and fans in Green Bay. So, what's the deal?
"It's just kind of about a philosophy and maybe forgetting that it is about the people that make the thing go," Rodgers said during an interview with ESPN's Kenny Mayne. "It's about character, it's about culture, it's about doing things the right way."
No matter what happens next, the three-time MVP will have a paragraph dedicated to 2021 trade rumors on his career summary.