BOSTON (CBS) — When Bill Belichick surprised everyone by trading Logan Mankins in the final week of the preseason, it provided yet another reminder that very, very few players manage to stay on the Patriots roster for very long. The saying that “NFL” stands for “not for long” is especially true in New England, where Belichick has shown no hesitance to part ways with a franchise cornerstone.
From Drew Bledsoe to Lawyer Milloy to Richard Seymour to Mike Vrabel to Adam Vinatieri, Belichick has said bye-bye to many players before most fans and media members believed it would happen.
As a result, it’s not exactly easy to stick around in Foxboro for too long, and a look at the current roster shows that pretty clearly. While you likely can guess the longest-tenured and second-longest-tenured members of the Patriots, it gets pretty questionable after that. It sometimes is hard to believe, considering the coach and quarterback have been intact for so long, but just two current Patriots have won Super Bowls with the team.
Here’s a look at the 10 longest-tenured players on the Patriots roster. Some may surprise you.
10. Rob Ninkovich — Signed in July 2009
The versatile pass rusher has become a staple in the Patriots’ defense, but he didn’t join the Patriots before first enduring a roller-coaster ride with the Saints and Dolphins. He was drafted in ’06 by the Saints and played in three regular-season games before suffering a season-ending injury. He suffered yet another injury the following summer and was cut by the Saints. He then signed with the Dolphins but played in just five total games over two years. Then he signed with the Patriots, he’s played in 79 of a possible 80 games, and he’s become a fan favorite for his penchant for smashing the quarterback.
9. Julian Edelman — Selected in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft
Remember back on the final day of the draft in 2009, when Belichick seemingly took crazy pills and drafted the quarterback from Kent State in the seventh round, only he made sure to designate the pick as a wide receiver? Nobody knew what that was all about. Well now after Edelman turned in a 105-reception, 1,056-yard, six-touchdown season last year as Tom Brady’s most reliable receiving weapon, we all understand.
8. Sebastian Vollmer — Selected in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft
The man who may end up replacing Mankins at left guard is no stranger to such a task, as he was asked to fill in for franchise icon Matt Light at left tackle during the 2009 season. He’s since become a staple on the offensive line.
7. Patrick Chung — Selected in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft
Chung makes the list via technicality, as he spent last year with the Eagles after signing with Philly as a free agent. But he’s back now, and he was a familiar face in some forgettable defensive units from 2009-12.
6. Matthew Slater — Selected in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft
The special teams ace and perennial captain has played in 87 of a possible 96 games since 2008, catching just one pass in that time but proving his worth on special teams.
5. Jerod Mayo — Selected in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft
The tackle machine earned rookie of the year honors (one vote shy of doing so unanimously) when he recorded 128 tackles in the 2008 season. Ever since, he’s been a leader on that Patriots defense, and that continues heading into the 2014 season.
4. Dan Connolly — Signed to Patriots practice squad in September 2007
Connolly signed with the Pats in ’07 but didn’t actually hit the field until December 2008. He filled various roles but really made his name known when he returned a kickoff 71 yards against Green Bay in December 2010.
3. Stephen Gostkowski — Selected in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL Draft
In the same way that Jason Newsted was “the new guy” in Metallica for about 15 years, Stephen Gostkowski still seems like the new guy as the Patriots kicker. That’s what happens when you follow a legend and likely Hall of Famer in Adam Vinatieri. Nevertheless, at the ripe old age of 30, Gostkowski has been a Patriot much longer than almost all of his teammates.
2. Vince Wilfork — Selected in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft
Big Vince nearly saw his time in New England come to an end this offseason, when he reportedly asked to be released after the team had requested he take a pay cut. Cool heads eventually prevailed, as Wilfork agreed to take less money to return to the only NFL team he’s ever known.
1. Tom Brady — Selected in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft
No surprise here, as Tom Brady has remained the one constant from the early 2000s to the present. Still, the recent trade of Mankins has led many to question just how Brady’s Patriots career will end. Will it be a smooth sail off into the sunset, or will Belichick unceremoniously tell Tom to take a hike if his play slips? It’s a scenario most Patriots fans would like to see put off for as long as possible.
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