Veteran players are a great commodity in the NFL, and their expertise and experience are extremely valuable to their teams. While teams are built with youth, they often must center around older players. Take a look at some of the best players over 35 in the NFL:
Tom Brady (38), QB, New England Patriots
Even at his age, Tom Brady can still lead his team to a Super Bowl. No current player in the NFL is as much of a winner as he is, with four Super Bowls to his name. Since 2003, the Patriots have made the playoffs in ever year he’s started the full season. Brady has stated his desire to play into his 40s, so he’ll continue to be on this list for years to come.
Peyton Manning (39), QB, Denver Broncos
For so many years, Peyton Manning has dominated the NFL. In terms of pure quarterback play, Manning is certainly in consideration for the best ever at the position. While he may not have the postseason success that Brady has, he’s one of the most decorated players. Manning holds dozens of NFL records, and he really hasn’t seen much decline in production.
Drew Brees (36), QB, New Orleans Saints
Since joining the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees has developed into one of the league’s most prolific passers. He holds the NFL record for most 5,000+ yard seasons and consecutive games with a touchdown pass, among others. No matter who his receivers are, Brees simply can tear apart defenses.
Steve Smith Sr. (36), WR, Baltimore Ravens
There might not be any player in the NFL who comes out to play with more intensity than Steve Smith Sr. After being released by the Panthers following over a decade of dominance, Smith seemed only to gain another reason to play that much harder. He provided Joe Flacco a reliable target and led the team in receiving yards. While the wide receiving corps makes another transition, Smith will still certainly remain the featured leader and playmaker of the group.
Antonio Gates (35), TE, San Diego Chargers
After being signed by the Chargers and having not played football since high school, Antonio Gates shattered any expectations. Since he gained the starting tight end role, Gates has been among the league’s best at the position for over a decade. Even last year, he raked in over 800 yards and 12 touchdowns. However, the NFL suspended him for four games for using PEDs.
Charles Woodson (38), FS, Oakland Raiders
Over his career, Charles Woodson has not only been a premier safety in the secondary, but he has also contributed to the pass rush. While he has seen a clear decline in his play since leaving the Packers, he still remains a viable threat on defense for the Oakland Raiders. His presence and history alone deem him more than worthy enough for this list.
Tony Romo (35), QB, Dallas Cowboys
Having gone undrafted in 2003, Tony Romo flew under the radar until he finally replaced Drew Bledsoe several games into the 2006 season. The Cowboys got immediate results, as Romo helped lead them to the playoffs. Since he’s been a starter, the Cowboys have gone to four playoffs, but Romo’s postseason success has been very limited. Nobody questions his ability, but his clutchness always has been.
Adam Vinatieri (42), K, Indianapolis Colts
Adam Vinatieri ranks among the best all time kickers in terms of his accuracy and clutch kicks in key moments. Just last year, Vinatieri led the NFL in field goal percentage, having missed just one kick all season. As the oldest player in the NFL, his 20th season will surely be another successful one in his already storied career.
Julius Peppers (35), LB, Green Bay Packers
Even as he progresses late into his career, Julius Peppers still continues to post impressive numbers, after moving to linebacker this past year. He managed a strong seven sacks, four forced fumbles, three recovered, and two interceptions in his first year at the new position. If he can maintain this production, he will continue to be regarded as one of the top NFL defenders.
Carson Palmer (35), QB, Arizona Cardinals
For so many years, Carson Palmer has been a mainstay at quarterback. He's been among the best at times, but he's only made two playoff appearances in his career. Last year, he began the season extremely impressively and looked poised for another playoff. However, an injury caused him to miss most of the season, and the Cardinals struggled at quarterback without him. If he remains healthy, the Cardinals will be a team to watch throughout the season.
James Harrison (37), LB, Pittsburgh Steelers
James Harrison is clearly not the player that he once was, but he's certainly still a threat on that defense. After announcing his retirement a few years ago, Harrison has returned as a solid player and leader. He hasn't played a full season since 2010, but the Steelers just simply need any contribution that he can give them. He managed 5.5 sacks last season, showing that he still has flashes of his once dominant pass rushing skills.
Reggie Wayne (36), WR, New England Patriots
After Reggie Wayne remained a free agent for most of the offseason, he finally signed a one-year deal with New England. While he is surely no longer a number one receiver for a team, he showed last year that he can still be productive. Injuries have plagued him for the past two seasons, but he stated his desire to continue playing. It was only a matter of time before a team signed him, and the Patriots will surely get value out of his veteran experience.
Other notable players: Shane Lechler, Sebastian Janikowski