Special Report

The Oldest Players in the NFL Today

Doug Pensinger / Getty Images

There’s a saying in sports that “Father Time is undefeated,” meaning that no matter how good an athlete is, there will come a day when they can no longer keep up with younger players. However, some current NFL players seem to have — so far — defied Father Time as they have managed to keep their careers going into their late 30s and even 40s.

To determine the oldest active players in the NFL, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed data from Pro Football Reference. Players who have announced their retirement or did not play in the 2020 NFL season were not considered. Ages are accurate as of March 2, 2021.

The typical NFL career lasts just over three years. But through new training and recovery techniques, improved medical care, and even better nutrition, some players have been able to extend their career to 15 or even 20 seasons. 

For instance, QB Alex Smith returned to the NFL in 2020 after a severe leg fracture in 2018 — the same kind of injury that ended the career of Joe Theisman. It is tempting for sports fans to wonder what could have become of athletes from years past if they had the same medical advancements available to them during their professional career. These are the greatest athletes sidelined by brutal injuries.

Click here to see the oldest players in the NFL today.

Source: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

25. Mason Crosby
> Age, birthday: 36 (Sep. 3, 1984)
> Rookie season: 2007
> Games played: 224
> Position, team(s): Kicker, Green Bay Packers

Mason Crosby is one of a select few NFL players born before 1985 that are still active in the league. Drafted in 2007, Crosby is one of just two Green Bay Packers players still remaining on the team from the Super Bowl-winning squad of 2010, along with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The 36-year-old kicker isn’t just hanging around either. He made all 16 of his field goal attempts in the 2020 season — one of just two kickers who didn’t miss all year. Crosby is under contract through the 2022 season.

24. Matt Prater
> Age, birthday: 36 (Aug. 10, 1984)
> Rookie season: 2007
> Games played: 203
> Position, team(s): Kicker: Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons

Matt Prater is one of five kickers to rank among the 25 oldest active NFL players. This should come as no surprise as kickers rarely receive or deliver big hits, minimizing their risk of injury and allowing them to stay healthy and productive for much longer than is typical at other positions.

Prater is a two-time Pro Bowler who has played for the Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, and Atlanta Falcons. He holds the NFL record for the longest ever field goal made, at 64 yards. Prater’s NFL future is up in the air as his contract with the Lions ended at the end of the 2020 season, and the new coaching staff would not commit to trying to re-sign him.

Source: Christian Petersen / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

23. Clark Harris
> Age, birthday: 36 (Jul. 10, 1984)
> Rookie season: 2008
> Games played: 188
> Position, team(s): Long snapper: Houston Texans, Cincinnati Bengals

Though Clark Harris was drafted as a tight end, he’s made his name in the NFL as a long snapper. Harris has not registered an unplayable snap since becoming the long snapper for the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009. In 2017, he earned Pro Bowl recognition for his play. Though Harris became a free agent after the 2020 season, the 36-year-old would likely not struggle to find an NFL roster spot given his flawless performance thus far in his career.

Source: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

22. Marcedes Lewis
> Age, birthday: 36 (May 19, 1984)
> Rookie season: 2006
> Games played: 217
> Position, team(s): Tight end: Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers

Marcedes Lewis, the tight end affectionately known as “Big Dog” by his teammates, is a one-time Pro Bowler and 15-year NFL veteran. At 6’6″, 267 pounds Lewis primarily serves as a blocking tight end, and teammates say he is a respected veteran leader in the locker room. His contract expired at the end of the 2020 season, but Lewis said he would want to come back to Green Bay for the 2021 season.

Source: Scott Taetsch / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

21. Alex Smith
> Age, birthday: 36 (May 7, 1984)
> Rookie season: 2005
> Games played: 174
> Position, team(s): Quarterback: San Francisco 49ers, Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Football Team

Quarterback Alex Smith defied the odds to play in the 2020 season — not because he was 36 years old, but because he came back from a devastating injury in 2018 that included a fractured leg and resulting severe infection. Smith needed 17 surgeries on the leg, which doctors reportedly considered amputating at one point. In spite of this, Smith not only returned to the field in 2020, but he led the Washington Football Team to an NFC East championship.

Though he seems unlikely to return to Washington for 2021, Smith indicated he would like to continue his NFL career, though the three-time Pro Bowler may end up serving as a backup somewhere.

Source: Bob Levey / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

20. Johnathan Joseph
> Age, birthday: 36 (Apr. 16, 1984)
> Rookie season: 2006
> Games played: 211
> Position, team(s): Defensive back: Houston Texans, Cincinnati Bengals, Arizona Cardinals, Tennessee Titans

Cornerback Johnathan Joseph was a first round draft pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2006. He is one of just two defensive backs age 36 or older still plying his trade in the NFL. Joseph played for five years in Cincy before moving to Houston, where he earned both of his Pro Bowl nods during his nine-year stint with the Texans. Joseph signed with the Tennessee Titans for the 2020 season but ended up with the Arizona Cardinals after the Titans cut him.

Joseph may no longer be under contract with Arizona, but he reportedly helped convince former Texans teammate J.J. Watt to sign with the Cardinals.

Source: Billie Weiss / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

19. Stephen Gostkowski
> Age, birthday: 37 (Jan. 28, 1984)
> Rookie season: 2006
> Games played: 219
> Position, team(s): Kicker: New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans

Stephen Gostkowski is one of the most successful kickers in NFL history. He had big shoes to fill, replacing Adam Vinatieri in New England to start his pro career. But Gostkowski performed admirably, making four Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams, as well as helping the Patriots win three Super Bowls.

After missing most of the 2019 seasons, New England cut Gostkowski, who ended up signing with the Tennessee Titans on a one-year deal. He struggled early in the season, but did not miss a single kick in the final two months of the season, including the Titans’ playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Source: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

18. Aaron Rodgers
> Age, birthday: 37 (Dec. 2, 1983)
> Rookie season: 2005
> Games played: 197
> Position, team(s): Quarterback: Green Bay Packers

Though he is one of the oldest players in the NFL, Aaron Rodgers proved in 2020 that he is still one of the best. The Green Bay Packers QB won his third MVP award, to go along with nine Pro Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl ring. Rodgers led the league the past season in touchdown passes, completion percentage, and quarterback rating, all while throwing an interception on just 1% of his passes — the lowest rate in the league.

Rodgers led the Packers to a 13-3 record this season, but the team came up just short against the eventual Super Bowl winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC Championship game.

Source: Handout / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

17. Larry Fitzgerald
> Age, birthday: 37 (Aug. 31, 1983)
> Rookie season: 2004
> Games played: 263
> Position, team(s): Wide receiver: Arizona Cardinals

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who was the third overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft, has managed to live up to those lofty expectations. He has spent his entire 17-year career with the Arizona Cardinals and has led the league in touchdowns and total receptions twice. The University of Pittsburgh product ranks second all time in receptions and receiving yards, both behind Jerry Rice. He has made 11 Pro Bowls and made one All-Pro team.

Receivers typically rely on their speed and agility to succeed in the NFL, making it all the more impressive that Fitzgerald has been able to play the position at a high level into his late 30s. He has remained tight-lipped about his decision on whether to keep playing in 2021.

Source: Hannah Foslien / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

16. Richie Incognito
> Age, birthday: 37 (Jul. 5, 1983)
> Rookie season: 2006
> Games played: 164
> Position, team(s): Guard: St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, Las Vegas Raiders

Offensive lineman have a physically challenging and demanding job, and few are able to play the position well into their 30s. Yet four-time Pro Bowl guard Richie Incognito appears poised to come back for the 2021 season with the Las Vegas Raiders after missing almost all of 2020 after undergoing foot surgery. He is still under contract and well-liked by head coach Jon Gruden. Incognito was out of the NFL in 2014 and retired for the 2018 season before coming back to football in 2019.

Source: Timothy T Ludwig / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

15. Frank Gore
> Age, birthday: 37 (May 14, 1983)
> Rookie season: 2005
> Games played: 241
> Position, team(s): Running back: San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets

Running backs, who endure violent, high-speed collisions dozens of times in a game, have the shortest average careers of any position group in the NFL, at less than 2.6 years. But don’t tell that to Frank Gore, who has expressed interest in coming back for his 17th season in the backfield.

After spending the first decade of his career with the San Francisco 49ers, Gore has bounced around to the Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and New York Jets. Gore has racked up five Pro Bowl appearances and 16,000 rushing yards, making him the NFL’s third all-time leading rusher, behind Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton.

14. Tramon Williams
> Age, birthday: 37 (Mar. 16, 1983)
> Rookie season: 2007
> Games played: 205
> Position, team(s): Defensive back: Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens

Tramon Williams has made a career out of defying the odds. The defensive back played 14 NFL seasons, despite going undrafted and, before that, making the football team at Louisiana Tech as a walk-on. Williams played 10 seasons with the Green Bay Packers in two separate stints.

While with the packers, he won a Super Bowl and made the Pro Bowl in the 2010 season. He also played for the Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, and Baltimore Ravens. The Packers re-signed Williams to their practice squad for the 2020 playoffs after Baltimore was eliminated.

Source: Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

13. Robbie Gould
> Age, birthday: 38 (Dec. 6, 1982)
> Rookie season: 2005
> Games played: 236
> Position, team(s): Kicker: Chicago Bears, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers

Robbie Gould has long been one of the best kickers in the NFL. He made the Pro Bowl and received his lone All-Pro nod in 2006 while with the Chicago Bears. Gould has been good when it counted most — he has never missed a postseason kick, converting all 15 field goal attempts and 29 extra point attempts throughout his five playoff campaigns. Gould figures to keep playing for a while longer, as he is under contract with the 49ers through the 2022 season.

12. Ryan Fitzpatrick
> Age, birthday: 38 (Nov. 24, 1982)
> Rookie season: 2005
> Games played: 165
> Position, team(s): Quarterback: Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans

Ryan Fitzpatrick is one of the most well-traveled players in the NFL, having suited up for eight different teams in his 16 seasons. The Harvard graduate developed a reputation for being able to step in off the bench and ignite his team’s offense, earning the nickname “FitzMagic.” Though his contract with the Miami Dolphins ended after the 2020 season, Fitzpatrick has expressed interest in coming back for a 17th season in 2021.

Source: Patrick McDermott / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

11. Sam Koch
> Age, birthday: 38 (Aug. 13, 1982)
> Rookie season: 2006
> Games played: 239
> Position, team(s): Punter: Baltimore Ravens

Because they typically avoid the physical punishment other NFL players endure, punters like Sam Koch can have longer careers than most other players. Koch is one of three punters age 38 or older in the NFL. Drafted by the Ravens in 2006, Koch has spent his entire career in Baltimore, making one Pro Bowl and earning a Super Bowl ring as a member of the franchise’s 2012 championship team.

Source: Dustin Bradford / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

10. Andy Lee
> Age, birthday: 38 (Aug. 11, 1982)
> Rookie season: 2004
> Games played: 264
> Position, team(s): Punter: San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns

Andy Lee is one of the most accomplished punters in NFL history. Throughout his first 11 years with the San Francisco 49ers, Lee made it to three Pro Bowls and was named to the All-Pro team three times as the top punter in the NFL. In 2011, he averaged 50.9 yards per punt — the third-best season average in NFL history.

Lee has remained productive for well over a decade. In 2018, at age 36, Lee led the NFL again, with 48.6 yards per punt for the Arizona Cardinals. Lee’s NFL future looks a bit murky as his contract with Arizona ended after the 2020 season.

Source: Jamie Squire / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

9. Dustin Colquitt
> Age, birthday: 38 (May 6, 1982)
> Rookie season: 2005
> Games played: 244
> Position, team(s): Punter: Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers

Dustin Colquitt is one of three 38-year-old punters in the NFL, though he is just a few months older than Sam Koch and Andy Lee. He hails from a punting family — his brother Britton, cousin Jimmy, and father Craig have all made it to the NFL.

Colquitt played his first 15 seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs, becoming the franchise’s all-time leader in games played. He made two Pro Bowls and won the Super Bowl with the team in 2019. The team released Colquitt after the season, then he signed with and was cut by both the Steelers and the Jaguars in 2020. Eventually, the Chiefs re-signed Colquitt to the practice squad for the playoffs.

Source: Jim Rogash / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

8. Mike Nugent
> Age, birthday: 39 (Mar. 2, 1982)
> Rookie season: 2005
> Games played: 172
> Position, team(s): Kicker: Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mike Nugent was one of the highest drafted kickers of all time, when the New York Jets selected him in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft. Since, Nugent has played all over the NFL, playing with seven other teams in his 16 season career, so far.

Nugent has been signed mid-season numerous times by teams who either needed to replace an injured kicker or wanted to stabilize the position with a proven veteran. This happened again in 2020, when Nugent was signed to play in four games for the Cardinals, hitting seven of his eight field goal attempts and all seven extra point attempts. Nugent is again a free agent after the 2020 season, and teams who need kicking help may come calling.

Source: Justin K. Aller / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

7. Ben Roethlisberger
> Age, birthday: 39 (Mar. 2, 1982)
> Rookie season: 2004
> Games played: 233
> Position, team(s): Quarterback: Pittsburgh Steelers

Ben Roethlisberger is part of an elite fraternity of just a dozen NFL quarterbacks that have won multiple Super Bowls. The Steelers QB has also earned six trips to the Pro Bowl in his 17-year NFL career and led the NFL twice in passing yards.

Big Ben’s status for 2021 is very much up in the air. His contract will count for over $41 million against the Steelers’ salary cap and the team’s presidents said his deal will need to be restructured in order to bring him back. There has also been speculation that 2020 may have been Roethlisberger’s final season.

Source: Mitchell Leff / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

6. Jason Peters
> Age, birthday: 39 (Jan. 22, 1982)
> Rookie season: 2004
> Games played: 213
> Position, team(s): Tackle:

Most NFL players in their late 30s or older are specialists — like punters, long snappers, or kickers — or quarterbacks who special rules help protect them from injury. Yet a handful of players down in the trenches have managed to stretch their careers well into a second decade, and Jason Peters is one of them.

Known as The Bodyguard, Peters has done the important work of protecting his quarterback’s blindside since 2004. Peters played his first five seasons with the Buffalo Bills before being traded to Philadelphia. In his career, he has made nine Pro Bowls, two All-Pro teams, and won a Super Bowl. Peters said he wants to come back for another season, though he admitted it likely won’t be with the Eagles as his contract with Philly has expired.

Source: Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

5. Andrew Whitworth
> Age, birthday: 39 (Dec. 12, 1981)
> Rookie season: 2006
> Games played: 224
> Position, team(s): Tackle: Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams

Tackle Andrew Whitworth seems to be getting better with age. His first Pro Bowl season came at age 31, during his time with the Cincinnati Bengals. He made his first All-Pro team in 2015, at age 34. All told, the LSU product has made four Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams in his career with the Bengals as well as the Los Angeles Rams. Whitworth could add to his accolades as he is under contract through 2022 and said he intends to keep playing.

Source: Leon Halip / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

4. Don Muhlbach
> Age, birthday: 39 (Aug. 17, 1981)
> Rookie season: 2004
> Games played: 260
> Position, team(s): Long snapper: Detroit Lions

Long snapper is a position that is often overlooked, unless something goes wrong. The Detroit Lions have been able to overlook the position for a while as they have had Don Muhlbach in that role since 2004. Muhlbach hasn’t missed a game since 2009, and he made the Pro Bowl in 2012 and 2018. Like 36-year-old kicker Matt Prater who also played for the Lions in 2020, Muhlbach is also out of contract, and it is unclear if the new coaching staff will bring either player back for 2021.

Source: Ronald Martinez / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

3. L.P. Ladouceur
> Age, birthday: 39 (Mar. 13, 1981)
> Rookie season: 2005
> Games played: 253
> Position, team(s): Long snapper: Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys long snapper L.P. Ladouceur is aiming to be one of a select few players in NFL history to play a game in their 40s. Ladoucer, who has featured in every Cowboys game since 2005, has played in more NFL games than any other Canadian in league history.

Though he became a free agent after the 2020 season, Ladoucer said he would like to come back to Dallas for 2021. With no bad snaps in his entire career, he will likely have no issue finding a team to sign him if Dallas chooses not to re-sign him.

Source: Jonathan Bachman / Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

2. Drew Brees
> Age, birthday: 42 (Jan. 15, 1979)
> Rookie season: 2001
> Games played: 287
> Position, team(s): Quarterback: San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. He holds the record for most career passing yards, at over 80,000. Throughout his storied career, Brees made it to 13 Pro Bowls, one All-Pro team, and guided the New Orleans Saints to a memorable Super Bowl victory. He has led the NFL in passing yards and completion percentage six times.

However, the 2020 season may have been the last of Brees’ career. He has remained mum on his future throughout early 2021, but there has been ongoing speculation about the 42-year-old’s retirement plans — especially since he has struggled with injuries in recent seasons.

Source: Jim Rogash / Getty Images

1. Tom Brady
> Age, birthday: 43 (Aug. 3, 1977)
> Rookie season: 2000
> Games played: 301
> Position, team(s): Quarterback: New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

At 43 years old, Tom Brady is the oldest active player in the NFL, but the future Hall of Famer has proven he’s never lost a step. After two dominant decades in New England — where he won six Super Bowls, won three MVPs, and made 14 Pro Bowls — Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There, he proved just as unstoppable, guiding the Bucs to another Super Bowl. His seventh Super Bowl ring is the most of any player in NFL history and makes him the undisputed G.O.A.T. — greatest of all time.

For years, Brady has insisted that he wanted to play until age 45. Now that he is getting close that age, he’s pushing his limits even further. He told reporters he could see himself playing even beyond 45, if his body holds up.

Sponsored: Find a Qualified Financial Advisor

Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to 3 fiduciary financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. Each advisor has been vetted by SmartAsset and is held to a fiduciary standard to act in your best interests. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us?
Contact the 24/7 Wall St. editorial team.