Being a good football fan can be an absurdly expensive job. Can you imagine how a fan of the Cleveland Browns must feel if he picked up the jersey of their latest quarterback each year? Each fan could come close to dressing a whole team themselves. Well, at least an offense.
Some fans have sworn off jerseys as a result and stick to generic shirts and hats, or spend some extra money to get a throwback jersey of an old player or a custom jersey with their own name on the back. The New England Patriots have even developed a rebate program for jerseys of players who leave the organization due to waivers, trades or pending legal charges.
One of the items on my sports fan bucket list is to go to one home game for each NFL team and become a fan of that team for a day. This means getting a jersey. This also means that I don’t want to spend more than the ticket costs for that jersey. So I hunt for cheap but semi-relevant player jerseys. These are the jerseys of players who used to be on the team, left, but are still respected by their old fans. Well, at least not hated by their old fans. Now I pass this knowledge on to you so that you can show pride — or at least hope — for your team. May you never again have to wear that old Terrell Owens jersey and feel vaguely dirty.
The bad news is that there are no jerseys on sale for the Baltimore Ravens. For men, at least.
You can still pick up a good deal with an Anquan Boldin jersey for your kid, or even an Ed Reed jersey for the ladies. For men? We can’t even get a Todd Heap jersey anymore because he retired. When a team is selling the jersey of their kicker, you may have a problem picking up a jersey on sale.
However, due to loss of tire tread, running back Ray Rice may not be long for this team, which means he could follow in Maurice Jones-Drew’s footsteps and take his veteran legs elsewhere when his contract is up.
While it’s true that Ryan Fitzpatrick didn’t really do much for the Buffalo Bills on the field except fill in when other quarterbacks failed, it’s hard not to give Fitzpatrick some respect as a human being. Or at least as an entertaining football player.
One thing Fitzpatrick always had going for him was his ginormous beard, which doubled as chin-strap padding as well as helped lead to one of his nicknames, “The Amish Rifle.” That’s right, I said one of his nicknames. Fitzpatrick had two. The other was “Fitzmagic” due to a song parody created by a Buffalo radio broadcaster that is probably the greatest player theme song ever.
Football players rarely leave the Cincinnati Bengals without some sort of grudge, either from fans, ownership or themselves. Most of the time it is due to legal troubles, but not always. Carson Palmer could have been one of those beloved former players but, after doing his best to make the Bengals organization trade him, it was not to be.
The closest thing the Cincinnati Bengals have to a former player who isn’t totally hated by Cincinnati is Cedric Benson. Sure, he was arrested a bit more than your average NFL player, but he didn’t kill anybody, which is now the measuring stick when asking the question, “How bad was he?” in reference to football players.
Next year, Johnny Manziel may be in this spot considering how quickly the Cleveland Browns blow through the expectations of their quarterbacks. Just ask Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Colt McCoy and Brandon Weeden.
For now, we can rely on a true former star of the Cleveland Browns for our cheap, respectable jersey needs: Peyton Hillis.
Hillis was good for a brief time, but what makes him a former fan favorite is that he is the only Browns player to make it to the cover of a Madden football game. Hillis did that in 2011, and promptly spiraled into mediocrity.
The adventures of Champ Bailey continue as the cornerback heads to New Orleans. That makes it five years with the Redskins and ten years with the Broncos. At this rate, Champ Bailey will play for the Saints for fifteen years and retire at the age of 51. Maybe.
Until then, you can show your pride in the past defenses of the Denver Broncos with a Champ Bailey jersey on the semi-cheap. Or you can wait a few years until Peyton Manning retires, since he’ll be going into the Hall of Fame as a Colt.
It’s doubtful that any self-respecting Texans fan would jump on a Matt Schaub jersey even if it was being given away for free to put out a fire in your home, especially since fans in Houston were burning his jersey in the stadium parking lot. But an Owen Daniels jersey is still respectable.
Then again, Andre Johnson jerseys may take a dip in price if he has his way and gets out of Houston.
While Austin Collie was not on the Colts when the team won Peyton Manning’s first Super Bowl, he was an important slot receiver in the team’s second run at the championship a few years later. It was a losing run in the end, but a run nonetheless.
Collie is small for a receiver, but he has heart like Wes Welker, and possibly just as many concussions.
It’s hard to believe, but Maurice Jones-Drew is no longer a Jacksonville Jaguar. For years, the Oompa Loompa running back was pretty much the entire Jaguars offense, like a mini-Adrian Peterson. But after suffering a foot injury, he was never the same, and promptly found himself in Oakland.
Usually such a major presence for a team would get a minor jersey price reduction but, with the Jaguars constantly changing their uniform and logo, the old MJD jerseys are ripe for the buying.
Kansas City Chiefs
Before last season, a respectable Kansas City Chiefs jersey would have included any player who wasn’t on the team anymore. Yeah, it got that bad: Tony Gonzalez left for Atlanta; the Matt Cassel years made Tyler Palko look good; Jovan Belcher… well, you know that sad story.
Now that the Chiefs have become legitimate, finding respectable old jerseys is almost impossible. Luckily, Javier Arenas jerseys are available to show off that you were there for the Chiefs in their worst times.
Unfortunately for the men, cheap Dolphins jerseys just aren’t available. Maybe it’s because the 1972 Dolphins celebrate their perfect season each year, buying up all the cheap jerseys and pouring champagne over them while they kiss their perfect season rings. The world may never know.
Luckily, the jerseys of past mediocre Dolphins like Reggie Bush, Chad Henne and Davone Bess, are ready for kids and women everywhere.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots are the first team in recent memory that gave fans a hand with this whole problem with buying a player jersey only to have that player leave the team. When Aaron Hernandez began his adventure in lock-up, the Patriots offered a jersey exchange for a weekend at their stadium store. Now they give a 25% discount on a new jersey if you trade in your former player jersey for a current player.
So if you haven’t traded in your old Danny Woodhead jersey for the down payment on a Tom Brady jersey yet, you may want to think about keeping it. It’s better than a Randy Moss jersey.
New York Jets
I’ll be the first to admit that it is a painful time on the wallet to be a Jets fan. There is so much player turnover that the best jersey to have at the moment is of the center, Nick Mangold. I thought I was safe picking up a Darrelle Revis jersey a few years back. Now it sits in the back of my closet next to the Mark Sanchez jersey a friend bought me, and makes me cry every time I look at it.
Revis and Sanchez jerseys are available, but you don’t want those. You would be much better off with the jersey of a player who didn’t break your heart as badly, and may even have a chance of coming back: tight end Dustin Keller.
If you’re a Raiders fan, chances are that you already have a Rich Gannon, Charles Woodson, or Sebastian Janikowski jersey, and you would be respectable in those ownerships. Yes, even the jersey of a kicker.
But if you want to wear the cheap jersey of a journeyman quarterback with an attitude only a Raiders fan could love, you may be be well suited for a Carson Palmer jersey.
If you want any sort of Pittsburgh Steelers jersey, you have to go with defense. Not just because there are so many to choose from, but because Steelers and “knock the opponent out of their shoes” go hand in hand when discussing sports.
One player particularly good at knocking his opponents out of their shoes and into concussions was James Harrison, who amassed two Super Bowl rings and countless fines with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Thanks for the memories, James.
San Diego Chargers
Recently, the Chargers have had two problems that usually lead to a horrible selection of sale jerseys. 1) The team hasn’t been very good. 2) The players who have come and gone haven’t been very memorable except for Vincent Jackson.
While a Philip Rivers jersey is fun for the whole family, Robert Meachem is available for fans on a budget, as well as NFL teams in general, considering how long he usually stays on one team.
Out of all other positions, running back is usually the position that the Titans fill the best. At the very least, for the last eight years. That running back is Chris Johnson, aka CJ2K, aka that guy who raced a cheetah.
While he may not have beat the cheetah, or even beat out Shonn Greene for touches last season, a Johnson jersey is a respectable piece of history. At least it beats a Kerry Collins jersey.
Patrick Emmel is a sports humorist who once punted a soccer ball fifty yards to his teammate, who then scored the only goal for his college intramural soccer team’s season. Seriously, that kick was placed PERFECTLY. He is also still a believer that Colt McCoy is going to break out as an NFL quarterback. You can read more of his obnoxious commentary at This Jeer In Sports and heckle him on Twitter @Patrick_AE.