The NFL has always been a young man's game. Perhaps at no time has that been more evident than over the last month – no April Fools Day spoiler alert required.
Brett Favre got the reputation of being a "gunslinger" more because of the insanely small windows he convinced himself that he could deliver a football. In real-life terms, a gunslinger made a reputation for himself by shooting down those who sought to take away his legacy. The higher the body count, the more largesse attached to the gunslinger.
In those terms, defensive ends are the true gunslingers of the NFL – large men with bad intentions.
In the modern era of the NFL, March brought us a scenario that may never be replicated. The game's top three quarterback terrorizers were available to anyone willing to deputize the gunslinger.
Vikings fans are no strangers to the superfluous stats that define a legacy. For defensive ends, the only stat that counts is sacks. Get sacks. Get paid. It's how they add zeroes to their contract numbers.
For the last decade, making the wives of quarterbacks wince has been done often, but not any better than by Jared Allen, DeMarcus Ware and Julius Peppers.
As gunslingers go, all three have been compensated for their skills. They dropped usurpers with regularity and finality. In their line of the work, they were the benchmark others aspire to be.
As calendars flipped to 2014, none of the three was preparing to play a game. Allen, Ware and Peppers – all looking for the Super Bowl ring to put an indelible mark on their careers – were on teams that weren't being projected by the boys in Vegas to be getting a finger sized any time soon.
They all moved on. Ware landed in Denver after Allen took a visit there. Peppers signed with the Packers. Depending on who you ask, that is tantamount to Brett Favre in the purple and gold.
Allen went to the new-look Bears.
Will the three crustiest gunslingers in the NFL succeed in their new locales?
Let's give that one about 10 months.
Will their franchise-shifting make an impact?
No doubt about it.
There will be a lot of jerseys going into bottom-of-the-drawer rotation in their former hometowns. Getting someone to commit to a defensive player's jersey doesn't come easy. There were a lot of Allen, Ware and Peppers jerseys sold. There will be a lot of new jerseys sold bearing their names in unfamiliar color schemes.
That's the business of the NFL. Don't get rid of those Vikings No. 69 jerseys, those Chicago No. 90 jerseys or those Dallas No. 94 jerseys. When all is said and done, those will be the numbers and colors to have. They are the jerseys of the salad days of their era's top gunslingers,
Just as Joe Montana's last pass wasn't thrown as a 49er, the next sack Allen, Ware or Peppers gets will add to their career totals, but not their legacies.
The gunslingers are alive and well and living in new towns. They're gone, but won't be forgotten in the places where they earned their reputations. That's where the legacies will be etched in stone.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Holler: DE legacies will remain with old team
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