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Published: July 17, 2017 at 01:39 p.m.
Updated: July 17, 2017 at 01:55 p.m.

NFL's best home-grown talent: Which non-QB rules each team?

"I think I'm on the back nine of my career," Packers QB Aaron Rodgers said to NFL Network's Alex Flanagan, before adding: "I'd like to finish my career in Green Bay."

Entering his 13th season, Rodgers is one of the increasingly rare NFL specimens to play for one team his entire career. That dynamic makes sense for a true franchise QB -- you don't let these guys walk away -- but what about beyond that position?

We've scanned the rosters of all 32 teams to pinpoint their most valuable homegrown veteran player. If you think every club has at least one obvious, rock-solid candidate -- think again. A handful of rosters are stocked almost entirely with young talent.

The rules: It can't be a QB, but it must be a player with at least five years of NFL experience -- all with the same team.

Let's take a look, shall we?

32 Photos Total

  • Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald (13 seasons of NFL experience) 32

    Kevin Terrell/Associated Press

    Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald (13 seasons of NFL experience)

    Coming off yet another 1,000-yard campaign, the 33-year-old Fitzgerald is a lock for Canton and still an asset for this Carson Palmer-led passing game. With Michael Floyd out of the mix, Fitzgerald will be counted on to deliver again in what could be his final NFL season. After pulling down 216 catches over the past two years, though, there's no question he could play well beyond 2017.

  • Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones (6) 31

    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones (6)

    Were you expecting anyone else? Jones has served as a monstrous presence since entering the league in 2011. Pro Football Focus calls him arguably "the best receiver since the PFF era began, having two of the top five highest-graded seasons (since 2006)." While concern lingers over his multiple foot surgeries, Jones has proven to be one of the NFL's toughest players.

  • Baltimore Ravens: Justin Tucker (5) 30

    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Baltimore Ravens: Justin Tucker (5)

    It's impossible to ignore the incredible career of Terrell Suggs, the pass-rushing terror who nabbed Rookie of the Year honors in 2003 before becoming the Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. Suggs will go down as one of the nastiest defenders of his time, but he's not the most talented veteran on today's Ravens. That award goes to Tucker, Baltimore's pristine sixth-year kicker. While others were botching extra points last autumn, Tucker nailed 98.5 percent of his attempted field goals and PATs. Going 10-for-10 on kicks of 50-plus yards, Tucker was a rock. That won't change in 2017.

  • Buffalo Bills: Marcell Dareus (6) 29

    Aaron M. Sprecher/Associated Press

    Buffalo Bills: Marcell Dareus (6)

    Plenty of Bills fans might vote for D-lineman Kyle Williams, but Dareus has spent stretches as Buffalo's finest defensive player during his six NFL seasons. With last year's four-game suspension behind him, the 2014 All-Pro was praised heavily by new coordinator Leslie Frazier as being "all in" this offseason, noting that Dareus has a chance to be one of the NFL's "most dominant interior defensive linemen" in coach Sean McDermott's new system.

  • Carolina Panthers: Luke Kuechly (5) 28

    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    Carolina Panthers: Luke Kuechly (5)

    Thomas Davis deserves mention here for the wild list of injuries and obstacles he's bounced back from to shine in Carolina. He's one of the most respected veterans in the league. That said, I'm going with Kuechly, the 2012 Rookie of the Year who nabbed Defensive Player of the Year honors the following season. Draped with Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods, Kuechly boasts unmatched instincts and coverage skills for a linebacker. The hope is that Carolina's star defender -- often the best player at his position when healthy -- will stay on the field after missing nine games over the past two seasons.

  • Chicago Bears: Nobody 27

    Scott Boehm/Associated Press

    Chicago Bears: Nobody

    It's not a shot at Chicago. The Bears have simply been gutted of veteran holdovers during the reign of general manager Ryan Pace. Running back Matt Forte, kicker Robbie Gould and wideout Alshon Jeffery are history. Today's Bears are left with zero players drafted prior to 2013. On a positive note, a handful of Pace's picks and young acquisitions -- Cody Whitehair, Jordan Howard, Cameron Meredith and Leonard Floyd -- have shown promise out of the gate.

  • Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green (6) 26

    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green (6)

    Geno Atkins is a beast, but the nod goes to Green, who has operated as a top-five-or-better NFL receiver for his entire career. Only Julio Jones gained more yards per route run than Green in 2016, a campaign that saw the Bengals wideout fall just 36 yards short of 1,000 yards despite missing six games. Forced to face the game's top corners on a weekly basis, Green has been a raging star for Cincy from wire to wire.

  • Cleveland Browns: Joe Thomas (10) 25

    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Cleveland Browns: Joe Thomas (10)

    Three cheers for a player who has never missed a snap during his decade-long run with the woeful Browns. Thomas has endured a thousand ghastly horrors in Cleveland, playing beside an endless parade of subpar quarterbacks and questionable surrounding talent. The only offensive lineman in league history to make the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons, Thomas has never complained about his fate.

  • Dallas Cowboys: Jason Witten (14) 24

    Ryan Kang/NFL

    Dallas Cowboys: Jason Witten (14)

    As with J.J. Watt for the Texans, Witten serves as a comprehensive no-brainer for Dallas. The hyper-productive tight end was Tony Romo's security blanket for his entire career before serving the same role last season for rookie Dak Prescott. During a remarkable career, Witten has evolved into a rare, throwback-type player in today's NFL.

  • Denver Broncos: Von Miller (6) 23

    Ric Tapia/NFL

    Denver Broncos: Von Miller (6)

    Wideout Demaryius Thomas has been a gem for Denver, but Miller is an MVP-level talent who plays his finest football when the spotlight burns bright. Following an ultra-dominant performance in Super Bowl 50, Miller was barely nipped by Khalil Mack for Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2016. Smack dab in the prime of his career, Denver's most talented force of nature will be a factor in the AFC West deep into the future.

  • Detroit Lions: Nobody 22

    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Detroit Lions: Nobody

    Ziggy Ansah and Darius Slay haven't been around long enough to qualify, leaving us with slim pickings in the Motor City. I'm not settling for Tahir Whitehead, a solid-but-unspectacular linebacker. Not unlike the Bears, the Lions are churning the roster under second-year general manager Bob Quinn. Plenty of young players will be given the chance to contribute.

  • Green Bay Packers: Jordy Nelson (9) 21

    Perry Knotts/NFL

    Green Bay Packers: Jordy Nelson (9)

    A pocket of Packers fans has made a cottage industry of critiquing general manager Ted Thompson. He's not active enough for their liking in free agency, but the experienced front-office leader has drafted his share of stars. Clay Matthews is a versatile edge-rushing defender who can flip inside as needed. Randall Cobb is an electric slot man and Thompson has drafted a handful of successful O-linemen. I'm going with Nelson, who bounced back from ACL surgery in 2015 to pile up 97 catches for 1,257 yards and a league-leading 14 touchdowns last season. Green Bay's unquestioned top target, Nelson was 2016's Comeback Player of the Year and has a chance to be even better this autumn.

  • Houston Texans: J.J. Watt (6) 20

    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    Houston Texans: J.J. Watt (6)

    I question if Earth needs a clothing line dreamt up by a defensive behemoth, but there's no debate over Watt's unmatched impact on the Texans. Nobody else on the roster is even close.

  • Indianapolis Colts: T.Y. Hilton (5) 19

    Greg Trott/Associated Press

    Indianapolis Colts: T.Y. Hilton (5)

    Coming off the finest season of his career, Hilton remains the most reliable pass-catching target in Indy. Despite his diminutive frame -- he's 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds -- Hilton has missed just two games over five NFL seasons while posting 1,000-plus yards in four of those campaigns. His 91-catch, 1,448-yard tear last autumn included single-game outbursts of 174, 171, 146 and 133 yards. As Andrew Luck's unquestioned No. 1 option, Hilton has the chance for another massive year.

  • Jacksonville Jaguars: Marcedes Lewis (11) 18

    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    Jacksonville Jaguars: Marcedes Lewis (11)

    One of the youngest teams in the league, the Jaguars don't have an excess of long-term veterans to pick from. Lewis, however, is nearing the end of a lengthy career with the club that picked him in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft. He's never topped 700 yards in a season, but the 33-year-old Lewis has been saddled with the same issue faced by all Jaguars over the past decade-plus: super-suspect quarterback play. With Julius Thomas off the roster, Lewis has the chance to play a larger role in 2017.

  • Kansas City Chiefs: Justin Houston (6) 17

    Tim Umphrey/Associated Press

    Kansas City Chiefs: Justin Houston (6)

    Veterans Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry made this a challenging choice, but Houston gets the call. At his finest, the Chiefs pass rusher is Kansas City's most important player, a quarterback wrecker with the talent to blow up opposing offenses with his special blend of chaos. Coming off an injury-plagued campaign, Houston is just two years removed from a 22-sack season.

  • Los Angeles Chargers: Antonio Gates (14) 16

    Greg Trott/Associated Press

    Los Angeles Chargers: Antonio Gates (14)

    It's fair to wonder if the 37-year-old Gates would have returned for a 15th campaign if he managed to snap -- not tie -- Tony Gonzalez's record for the most touchdowns by a tight end (111). Likely to play a supporting role behind second-year red-zone weapon Hunter Henry, Gates remains a threat with 24 touchdowns over his past three seasons. He isn't done yet.

  • Los Angeles Rams: Robert Quinn (6) 15

    Tom Hauck/Associated Press

    Los Angeles Rams: Robert Quinn (6)

    Very little went right during Jeff Fisher's problematic run with the Rams. The franchise utterly failed to develop a quarterback -- or really anyone on offense -- but the defense was built off successful draft picks. Michael Brockers has worked out well at the nose tackle spot, while 2011 first-rounder Robert Quinn (who actually joined this franchise one year before Fisher) has blossomed into a feared presence on the edge. He's coming off an injury-plagued down year, but Quinn -- when he's on -- flashes All-Pro-level talent. A bounceback campaign could be in the works under new play caller Wade Phillips.

  • Miami Dolphins: Cameron Wake (8) 14

    Ric Tapia/NFL

    Miami Dolphins: Cameron Wake (8)

    Wake didn't make his debut as an NFL pass rusher until after his 27th birthday. Migrating to Miami after a productive stretch in the CFL, the ageless edge rusher is coming off a dominant second-team All-Pro campaign that saw him post 11.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and 66 QB pressures. After signing a two-year deal with $11 million guaranteed, Wake remains the beating heart of this Dolphins defense.

  • Minnesota Vikings: Harrison Smith (5) 13

    Tom Hauck/Associated Press

    Minnesota Vikings: Harrison Smith (5)

    Everson Griffen deserves consideration, but I'm going with Smith. Minnesota's reliable, hard-hitting safety has been a perfect fit for coach Mike Zimmer's scheme. An aggressive, reliable run stuffer, Smith has given the Vikings a steady backstop since the minute he arrived. He's pivotal to Minnesota's plans.

  • New England Patriots: Rob Gronkowski (7) 12

    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    New England Patriots: Rob Gronkowski (7)

    Julian Edelman, Nate Solder, Dont'a Hightower and Devin McCourty all make sense, but the obvious choice is Gronk, the team's once-in-a-lifetime tight end. Beyond his unmatched impact on Tom Brady's production as a quarterback, Gronkowski is New England's most unstoppable weapon when healthy. Edelman is an oft-underrated, core element of this Patriots attack, but Gronkowski has completely reshaped the tight end position.

  • New Orleans Saints: Cameron Jordan (6) 11

    Kevin Terrell/Associated Press

    New Orleans Saints: Cameron Jordan (6)

    The Saints have been a long-running disaster on defense, but don't blame Jordan. The edge rusher was sensational down the stretch in 2016, while finishing with 79 QB pressures -- tied with Von Miller of the Broncos. Also a heady force against the run, Jordan would earn far more attention were he on a winning team with more support around him.

  • New York Giants: Jason Pierre-Paul (7) 10

    Evan Pinkus/Associated Press

    New York Giants: Jason Pierre-Paul (7)

    The Giants thought enough of Pierre-Paul's post-fireworks-calamity efforts to hand him a four-year, $62 million deal with $40 million in guarantees. Still just 28, JPP enjoyed moments of resurgent, powerful play last season and should continue to cause havoc on a line also sporting Damon Harrison and Olivier Vernon.

  • New York Jets: Muhammad Wilkerson (6) 9

    Scott Boehm/Associated Press

    New York Jets: Muhammad Wilkerson (6)

    Slim pickings on a roster that has been radically purged of veteran talent over the past 18 months. Wilkerson is a player the team is willing to build around despite some off-the-field concerns, including a scenario that saw the defensive lineman skip a team meeting where his teammates "had a cake to celebrate his birthday." After playing through pain last season, the hope is that Wilkerson will make good on the massive five-year, $86 million deal he signed last offseason.

  • Oakland Raiders: Sebastian Janikowski (17) 8

    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Oakland Raiders: Sebastian Janikowski (17)

    Let's not forget the Raiders were a heap of junk for years before the arrival of Derek Carr and Khalil Mack. The team is low on homegrown mainstays, but Oakland employs one man who's seen it all: Sebastian Janikowski. A first-round pick in Y2K, the kicker is one of two remaining active players from the 2000 NFL Draft. (The other? Tom Brady.) After starting Oakland's last Super Bowl appearance in 2002, it would be fascinating to see Janikowski play in one more before finally calling it quits.

  • Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox (5) 7

    Al Tielemans/Associated Press

    Philadelphia Eagles: Fletcher Cox (5)

    Defensive lineman Brandon Graham was sensational last season, but I'm picking Cox, who has turned in three straight seasons of excellent play. He was a whirlwind in the regular-season finale against top-notch Cowboys guard Zack Martin and adjusted well to coordinator Jim Schwartz's one-gap defensive scheme. Cox and Graham give the Eagles two rock-solid athletes to build around.

  • Pittsburgh Steelers: Antonio Brown (7) 6

    Perry Knotts/NFL

    Pittsburgh Steelers: Antonio Brown (7)

    The Steelers are loaded with talent. Veteran offensive linemen Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro have been trusty assets for Pittsburgh, but Brown is arguably the finest receiver league-wide. His eye-popping numbers over the past four seasons -- 481 catches, 6,315 yards and 43 touchdowns -- came against constant double-coverage. Able to single-handedly break a defense, Brown has emerged as an ultra-rare playmaker for a Steelers club with Super Bowl dreams in 2017.

  • San Francisco 49ers: NaVorro Bowman (6) 5

    Tom DiPace/Associated Press

    San Francisco 49ers: NaVorro Bowman (6)

    It's slim pickings with this rebuilding roster. The front seven has plenty of promising young players and a rash of veterans who began their careers elsewhere. Bowman, a four-time first-team All-Pro, is one of the few holdovers from Jim Harbaugh's glory run with the franchise, but it's fair to ask how much longer this union will last. One of the most exciting defensive talents league-wide a few seasons ago, the 29-year-old Bowman bounced back from a grisly knee injury in 2014 only to tear his Achilles' last October.

  • Seattle Seahawks: Earl Thomas (7) 4

    Paul Spinelli/Associated Press

    Seattle Seahawks: Earl Thomas (7)

    Seattle doesn't make it easy to pick just one. Few teams have done of better job of drafting, grooming and re-signing their own talent. Especially on defense, where linebacker Bobby Wagner and star cover man Richard Sherman have served as team anchors for years. My pick, though, is Earl Thomas. The five-time Pro Bowl safety saw last season cut short by a broken leg -- and even teased the idea of retirement -- but when healthy, Thomas remains one of the finest cover safeties in the NFL.

  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gerald McCoy (7) 3

    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Gerald McCoy (7)

    Phenomenal wideout Mike Evans would get consideration here if this exercise extended to veterans with less than five years of experience. The correct answer, though, is Gerald McCoy. Still one of the league's most fearsome interior defenders, the eighth-year lineman told reporters after last season that he was determined to put his best season on tape in 2017, saying: "I haven't done enough to lead this team." With the Bucs a popular pick to return to the playoffs this season, a career year by McCoy couldn't come at a better time.

  • Tennessee Titans: Jurrell Casey (6) 2

    Scott Boehm/Associated Press

    Tennessee Titans: Jurrell Casey (6)

    General manager Jon Robinson is rebuilding the Titans with a horde of talented, young prospects. Among the longer-term vets, consistent defensive lineman Jurrell Casey has played for a bunch of coaches and coordinators and produced in every scheme. Outshining fellow tackle Gerald McCoy of the Bucs last season, per Pro Football Focus, Casey piled up five sacks and 51 total pressures on the quarterback, giving Tennessee a disruptive pass-rushing threat from wire to wire.

  • Washington Redskins: Trent Williams (7) 1

    Damian Strohmeyer/Associated Press

    Washington Redskins: Trent Williams (7)

    One of the best players at his position, Williams has given the Redskins a consistent answer at left tackle since 2010. Last year's four-game suspension wasn't a great look, but Williams has shown an ability to play through pain. Dominant as a run blocker and pass protector, the 28-year-old bookend finished last season as the best tackle in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus. Plenty of frustrated edge rushers would agree.

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