Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians made headlines late last week when he stated that his quarterback, Carson Palmer, was just a Super Bowl ring away from being a Hall of Famer. While some may immediately dismiss Arians’ claim as “fake news,” there is certainly some backing to his comment. Palmer ranks 14th all-time in career passing yards and passing touchdowns, while possessing the 18th-best career passer rating. If you add a Super Bowl ring to that resume, there is certainly a case to be made.
But Carson Palmer is far from the only active star in the NFL who has failed to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. That got me thinking, who are the best active players in the league who don’t have rings? Rather unfortunately for you, when I get thinking, I generally tend to follow up by spewing my opinion in your direction. But hey, talking football in June sure beats watching the NBA Finals, amirite?
Below are the ten best active players without a Super Bowl ring, and the chances they win one before they hang them up.
Disclaimer: this list is based on career work, not current status. So back off, Cowboys fans asking where Dak and Zeke are! (And Tony Romo has retired.)
The Ten Best (Active) NFL Players Without a Ring
1. Adrian Peterson
The former Viking is one of seven members of the 2,000-yard club; he ranks tenth all-time in career yards per rushing attempt (4.9), 16th in career rushing yards (11,747), and tenth in career rushing touchdowns (97). But the most impressive part of Peterson’s career may be his ability to bounce back when everyone is doubting him.
After tearing his ACL late in the 2011 season, AP’s rapid recovery shocked the world. And his 2,097 rushing yards in 2012 were simply astonishing. If history isn’t enough to make you a Peterson believer this season, perhaps all his new teammates ranting and raving about how good he looks in OTAs will do the trick.
But scoring has never been the Saints’ problem under Sean Payton. If Peterson, who believes he can play another five years, is goig to win a ring in New Orleans, he’ll need the team to build a respectable defense, quick.
Odds to win a Super Bowl: 19/1
2. Julio Jones
The only other receivers I have ever witnessed dominate a game like Julio Jones can are Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, and Randy Moss. Simply put, Jones is the complete package at wide receiver. He possesses freakish size and athleticism, the ability to run any route on any tree, supreme hands, and sublime after-the-catch abilities.
Barring some major injury, Jones will easily climb into the top ten all-time in career receiving yards. He should have a ring on his finger after last season, but he and the Falcons fell victim to the worst Super Bowl collapse in the history of the game, so here he is. Atlanta’s young core will provide them with a large window to contend, though.
Odds to win a Super Bowl: 6/1
3. Larry Fitzgerald
I had an incredibly difficult time putting any receiver above Larry Fitzgerald here, as no active wide receiver has accomplished what he has in his 13 seasons. Fitzgerald ranks ninth in career receiving yards (14,389), and should easily crack the top five this season, as well as eighth in career receiving TDs. There’s a reason Bruce Arians made his comment about Carson Palmer: Larry Fitzgerald is a no-doubt Hall of Famer even if he never wins a ring.
Also, who could forget his magical 2008 postseason, where he nearly carried the Cardinals to a Super Bowl victory. Fitzgerald had 30 receptions for 546 yards and seven touchdowns in Arizona’s four games. I strongly believe that if Kurt Warner had been able to get off that last-second Hail Mary, Fitzgerald would have come down with it.
Arizona possesses one of the league’s most talented rosters, but Fitzgerald has danced with retirement talks. It might be this year or never for the star wideout.
Odds to win a Super Bowl: 19/1
4. JJ Watt
Quarterbacks in the AFC South may pray that injuries will slow Watt, but the rest of us are hoping the three-time Defensive Player of the Year returns to his pre-back surgery form. Prior to playing in only three games in 2016, Watt was averaging just over 17 sacks per season over the previous four. The four-time First Team All-Pro is one of the most dominant defensive players this league has ever seen.
Can someone get this man a quarterback already?
Odds to win a Super Bowl: 9/1
5. Antonio Gates
Though he’s far from the player he was in his prime, Gates still caught seven touchdowns in 14 games last season at the age of 36. He is arguably the most lethal redzone target in the history of the game, evident by his 111 TD receptions (sixth all-time). In his early years in the league, Gates was also deadly between the 20s.
In order for Gates to have any shot at winning a Super Bowl, the Chargers will have to work their way through an extremely tough AFC West, which was the only division in 2016 that spit out multiple 12-win teams.
Odds to win a Super Bowl: 49/1
6. Joe Thomas
Hey, Cleveland, do Joe Thomas a favor and either start competing, or trade him to the Patriots.
Thomas has been a top-three tackle every year since entering the league in 2007. About the only thing the Browns have been able to rely in recent years — beyond double-digit losses — is Thomas protecting their bust-of-a-quarterback’s blindside.
Odds to win a Super Bowl: 100/1
7. Julius Peppers
Peppers will go down as one of the most versatile pass rushers in league history. At 37 years old, he has certainly lost some of his explosion, but he still manages to get to the quarterback. In every season Peppers has played all 16 games, he has recorded at least seven sacks. His consistency has led to 143.5 career sacks, which ranks fifth all-time.
Now back in Carolina, where he was a part of a Super Bowl-runner up in 2003, Peppers will look to help return the Panther defense to its dominant 2015 ways. With the addition of a couple of the most explosive players in the draft, Carolina’s offense could also return to 2015 form. But it sure seems like Peppers’ opportunities are limited.
Odds to win a Super Bowl: 22/1
8. Luke Kuechly
There is no inside linebacker that affects a game the way Luke Kuechly does. The Panther linebacker is a force against the run, making plays from sideline-to-sideline, but is also tremendous against the pass, whether he is rushing the passer or dropping into coverage.
Kuechly and the Carolina defense took a backseat to the mighty Bronco defense in Super Bowl 50, losing 24-10. With Kuechly’s (still growing) history of concussions, he may not have as many runs at a ring as he’d like.
Odds to win a Super Bowl: 19/1
9. Antonio Brown
It’s funny to see so many great receivers on this list. But they can only impact a game as much as their quarterbacks allow. And, unfortunately, Antonio Brown hasn’t had anyone to draw attention away from him come playoff time.
Brown was a member of the Steelers team that lost to the Packers in Super Bowl XLV, but it was his rookie season and he was buried on the depth chart. Now he’s one of the most dominant receivers in the league and, paired with Le’Veon Bell, gives Pittsburgh arguably the best one-two punch in the NFL. The only things that have stood in Pittsburgh’s way the last few seasons have been injuries and the Patriots. Brady has to retire soon, though, right?
The next issue Brown may face in trying to win a ring is finding Ben Roethlisberger’s heir.
Odds to win a Super Bowl: 7/1
10. Philip Rivers
Rivers has been one of the most prolific passers of this era, but has posted a few stinkers in the playoffs. His career numbers are enough to give him the final spot on this list, though, and the only spot that went to a quarterback.
Rivers will have to revert back to his 2010 form for the Chargers to have any chance at making a Super Bowl run.
Odds to win a Super Bowl: 40/1
Honorable Mention: Matt Ryan, Matt Forte, Eric Weddle, Odell Beckham Jr, Trent Williams, Frank Gore, Brandon Marshall, Jason Witten, Carson Palmer, and Shane Lechler (that’s right, a punter).