Unwanted Recent Defensive Player of the Year Award Winners Reveal how Quickly NFL Players Decline

We've entered the second wave of free agency and two particularly well-respected veteran defensive players are still seeking jobs. So good, in fact, that both were considered the best defensive player in football at different points in the last five years. 

Yep, 2008 defensive player of the year James Harrison is still sitting around on the open market without a lot of buzz, while 2009 winner Charles Woodson awaits his next opportunity as well. Both were released by their long-time home teams in March and have entered April with their future still in the air.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King said last month that Harrison had the coldest name at the owners meetings in Arizona, and he's only made one free-agent visit thus far. Meanwhile, Woodson has said he feels "shunned" thus far. 

I guess that's the NFL, where treasure can become trash overnight. The two won their respective awards late — they're a combined 70 years old now — but it's still amazing how quickly each has fallen out of favor. 

Consider, too, that 2010 DPOY winner Troy Polamalu hasn't been the same since that year and had his 2012 season derailed by injuries and you start to wonder what's next for 2011 winner Terrell Suggs, who also saw his 2012 campaign get at least partially ruined by health problems. Jason Taylor's career fell off after winning the award in 2006 and Bob Sanders entered steep decline after receiving the honor in 2007, so it really looks as though Suggs and 2012 winner J.J. Watt will have to turn over a trend. 

Harrison, Woodson and Polamalu are in their 30s now, though, and so is Suggs. The big difference in regard to Watt is that he's only two years into his NFL career and, at 23, was the youngest player ever to win the award. 

But recent trends still say a lot, especially when you consider that the four men who have won the OPOY award the last six years — Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson — are still rocking out. 

Brad Gagnon

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at CBSSports.com, Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.