Timeline of the National Football League

Last updated

This timeline of the National Football League (NFL) tracks the history of each of the league's 32 current franchises from the early days of the league, through its merger with the American Football League (AFL). The history of franchises that began as independent teams, or as members of the Ohio League, New York Pro Football League, and other defunct leagues are shown as well.

Contents

NFL timeline

Timeline of the National Football League

1920–1932: The Birth of the NFL

1920

The American Professional Football Association is formed September 17, 1920, at Canton, Ohio, with Jim Thorpe elected president. [1] The fourteen teams were mainly drawn from the Ohio League, Chicago Circuit, New York Pro Football League and other teams from the lower midwest. A $100 membership fee was charged. The Chicago Tigers folded after the season. [2]

Team folded this season ^
1920 APFA teams
Akron Pros Dayton Triangles
Buffalo All-Americans Decatur Staleys
Canton Bulldogs Detroit Heralds
Chicago Cardinals Hammond Pros
Chicago Tigers ^ Muncie Flyers
Cleveland Tigers Rochester Jeffersons
Columbus Panhandles Rock Island Independents

1921

The American Professional Football Association is reorganized at Akron, Ohio on April 30, 1921, with Joe F. Carr elected as new league president. [1] With the low entry barrier of a $100 membership fee, the number of teams balloons to 21. [1] Four of these franchises would last only one season, with Tonawanda Kardex only making it through a single game. Three other franchises folded mid-season.

1921 name changes
1920 team name1921 team name
Cleveland Tigers Cleveland Indians
Decatur Staleys Chicago Staleys
Detroit Heralds Detroit Tigers
First season in APFA *Team folded this season ^Only season in the league *^
1921 APFA teams
Akron Pros Columbus Panhandles Minneapolis Marines *
Buffalo All-Americans Dayton Triangles Muncie Flyers ^
Canton Bulldogs Detroit Tigers ^ New York Brickley Giants *^
Chicago Cardinals Evansville Crimson Giants * Rochester Jeffersons
Chicago Staleys Green Bay Packers * Rock Island Independents
Cincinnati Celts *^ Hammond Pros Tonawanda Kardex *^
Cleveland Indians ^ Louisville Brecks * Washington Senators *^

1922

The APFA was renamed the National Football League on June 24, 1922. [3] Four new franchises were awarded.

1922 name change
1921 team name1922 team name
Chicago Staleys Chicago Bears


First season in NFL *Team folded this season ^
1922 NFL teams
Akron Pros Dayton Triangles Minneapolis Marines
Buffalo All-Americans Evansville Crimson Giants ^ Oorang Indians *
Canton Bulldogs Green Bay Packers Racine Legion *
Chicago Bears Hammond Pros Rochester Jeffersons
Chicago Cardinals Louisville Brecks Rock Island Independents
Columbus Panhandles Milwaukee Badgers * Toledo Maroons *

1923

A new and distinct Cleveland Indians franchise was formed. Two other teams joined the NFL, the Duluth Kelleys and the St. Louis All Stars. The St. Louis team folded after one season.

1923 name change
1922 team name1923 team name
Columbus Panhandles Columbus Tigers
First season in NFL *Team folded this season ^Last season before hiatus, rejoined league later §Only season in the league *^
1923 NFL teams
Akron Pros Cleveland Indians * Hammond Pros Racine Legion
Buffalo All-Americans Columbus Tigers Louisville Brecks ^ Rochester Jeffersons
Canton Bulldogs § Dayton Triangles Milwaukee Badgers Rock Island Independents
Chicago Bears Duluth Kelleys * Minneapolis Marines St. Louis All Stars *^
Chicago Cardinals Green Bay Packers Oorang Indians ^ Toledo Maroons ^

1924

Before the season, the owner of the Cleveland Indians bought the Canton Bulldogs and "mothballed" it, taking the team's nickname and players to Cleveland for the season. The Canton Bulldogs had won the NFL championship in 1923, and won it again as the Cleveland Bulldogs in 1924.

1924 name changes
1923 team name1924 team name
Buffalo All-Americans Buffalo Bisons
Cleveland Indians Cleveland Bulldogs
First season in NFL *Last season before hiatus, rejoined league later §Only season in the league *^
1924 NFL teams
Akron Pros Dayton Triangles Kenosha Maroons *^
Buffalo Bisons Duluth Kelleys Milwaukee Badgers
Chicago Bears Frankford Yellow Jackets * Minneapolis Marines §
Chicago Cardinals Green Bay Packers Racine Legion §
Cleveland Bulldogs Hammond Pros Rochester Jeffersons
Columbus Tigers Kansas City Blues * Rock Island Independents

1925

The Canton Bulldogs were reactivated. Four other franchises were awarded, including most notably a New York City franchise awarded to Timothy J. Mara and Will Gibson for a $2,500 membership fee, the New York Giants. [1] This was the final season for the Rochester Jeffersons.

1925 name change
1924 team name1925 team name
Kansas City Blues Kansas City Cowboys
First season in NFL *Last active season ^Last season before hiatus, rejoined league later §
Team jumped to the AFLRejoined the NFL **
1925 NFL teams
Akron Pros Cleveland Bulldogs § Frankford Yellow Jackets New York Giants *
Buffalo Bisons Columbus Tigers Green Bay Packers Pottsville Maroons *
Canton Bulldogs ** Dayton Triangles Hammond Pros Providence Steam Roller *
Chicago Bears Detroit Panthers * Kansas City Cowboys Rochester Jeffersons ^
Chicago Cardinals Duluth Kelleys Milwaukee Badgers Rock Island Independents

1926

The league grew to 22 teams, a figure that would not be equaled in professional football until 1961, adding the Brooklyn Lions, the Hartford Blues, the Los Angeles Buccaneers, and the Louisville Colonels, with Racine Tornadoes re-entering. At a league meeting held February 7, 1926, each franchise's roster was limited to a maximum of 18 players, with a minimum of 15. [3]

1926 name changes
1925 team name1926 team name
Akron Pros Akron Indians
Buffalo Bisons Buffalo Rangers
Duluth Kelleys Duluth Eskimos
Racine Legion Racine Tornadoes
Only season in the league *^Rejoined the NFL **Last active season ^
1926 NFL teams
Akron Indians ^ Green Bay Packers
Brooklyn Lions *^ Hammond Pros ^
Buffalo Rangers Hartford Blues *^
Canton Bulldogs ^ Kansas City Cowboys ^
Chicago Bears Los Angeles Buccaneers *^
Chicago Cardinals Louisville Colonels *^
Columbus Tigers ^ Milwaukee Badgers ^
Dayton Triangles New York Giants
Detroit Panthers ^ Pottsville Maroons
Duluth Eskimos Providence Steam Roller
Frankford Yellow Jackets Racine Tornadoes ** ^

1927

Prior to the season, the league decided to eliminate the financially weaker teams. As a result, the league dropped from 22 to 12 teams, and a majority of the remaining teams were centered around the East Coast instead of the Midwest, where the NFL had started. The New York Yankees were added from the American Football League and the Cleveland Bulldogs returned.

1927 name change
1926 team name1927 team name
Buffalo Rangers Buffalo Bisons
Rejoined the NFL **Merged from 1926 AFL *
Last active season ^Last season before hiatus, rejoined league later §
1927 NFL teams
Buffalo Bisons §
Chicago Bears
Chicago Cardinals
Cleveland Bulldogs **
Dayton Triangles
Duluth Eskimos ^
Frankford Yellow Jackets
Green Bay Packers
New York Giants
New York Yankees *
Pottsville Maroons
Providence Steam Roller

1928

The league drops to 10 teams, the Buffalo Bisons sat out the season and the Duluth Eskimos folded. The Cleveland Bulldogs moved and played as the Detroit Wolverines.

1928 name change
1927 team name1928 team name
Cleveland Bulldogs Detroit Wolverines
Last active season ^
1928 NFL teams
Chicago Bears
Chicago Cardinals
Dayton Triangles
Detroit Wolverines ^
Frankford Yellow Jackets
Green Bay Packers
New York Giants
New York Yankees ^
Pottsville Maroons
Providence Steam Roller

1929

The league increased back to 12 teams with the addition of two franchises, the Staten Island Stapletons, and the Orange Tornadoes. Two mothballed teams activated for the season. Minneapolis re-entered as the Red Jackets along with the re-entry of the Buffalo Bisons.

1929 name changes
1928 team name1929 team name
Minneapolis Marines Minneapolis Red Jackets
Pottsville Maroons Boston Bulldogs
First season in NFL *Rejoined the NFL **Last active season ^
1929 NFL teams
Boston Bulldogs ^
Buffalo Bisons ** ^
Chicago Bears
Chicago Cardinals
Dayton Triangles
Frankford Yellow Jackets
Green Bay Packers
Minneapolis Red Jackets **
New York Giants
Orange Tornadoes *
Providence Steam Roller
Staten Island Stapletons *

1930

Prior to the season, Brooklyn businessmen William B. Dwyer and John C. Depler bought the Dayton Triangles, moved it, and renamed it the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Orange Tornadoes relocated to Newark. The Portsmouth Spartans entered as a new team, bringing the total to 11 teams. The league roster limit was expanded to a maximum of 20 players, with a minimum of 16 required. [3]

1930 name change
1929 team name1930 team name
Dayton Triangles Brooklyn Dodgers
Orange Tornadoes Newark Tornadoes
First season in NFL *Last active season ^
1930 NFL teams
Brooklyn Dodgers
Chicago Bears
Chicago Cardinals
Frankford Yellow Jackets
Green Bay Packers
Minneapolis Red Jackets ^
New York Giants
Newark Tornadoes ^
Portsmouth Spartans *
Providence Steam Roller
Staten Island Stapletons

1931

The league decreased to 10 teams due to financial hardships caused by the Great Depression. While the Cleveland Indians joined as an expansion team, the league lost the Minneapolis Red Jackets and the Newark Tornadoes, and the Frankford Yellow Jackets folded midway through the season.

Only season in the league *^Last active season ^
1931 NFL teams
Brooklyn Dodgers
Chicago Bears
Chicago Cardinals
Cleveland Indians *^
Frankford Yellow Jackets ^
Green Bay Packers
New York Giants
Portsmouth Spartans
Providence Steam Roller ^
Staten Island Stapletons

1932

The Boston Braves enfranchised bringing the total to 8 teams.

First season in NFL *Team folded this season ^
1932 NFL teams
Boston Braves *
Brooklyn Dodgers
Chicago Bears
Chicago Cardinals
Green Bay Packers
New York Giants
Portsmouth Spartans
Staten Island Stapletons ^

1933–1939: Start of Championship Game

1933

The barrier to entry was raised again with the July 8 decision to increase the league membership fee to $10,000. [1] Despite the fee increase, three new teams were added to the league — the Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Eagles, and Pittsburgh Pirates. The league split into Eastern and Western Divisions with the winner of each division playing in the NFL Championship Game. The 1933 season would be the first in which no NFL team folds or suspends operations.

1933 name change
1932 team name1933 team name
Boston Braves Boston Redskins
First season in NFL *
1933 NFL teams
Eastern DivisionWestern Division
Boston Redskins Chicago Bears
Brooklyn Dodgers Chicago Cardinals
New York Giants Cincinnati Reds *
Philadelphia Eagles * Green Bay Packers
Pittsburgh Pirates * Portsmouth Spartans

1934

1934 name change
1933 team name1934 team name
Portsmouth Spartans Detroit Lions
Only season in the league *^Last active season ^
1934 NFL teams
Eastern DivisionWestern Division
Boston Redskins Chicago Bears
Brooklyn Dodgers Chicago Cardinals
New York Giants Cincinnati Reds ^ [4]
Philadelphia Eagles Detroit Lions
Pittsburgh Pirates Green Bay Packers
St. Louis Gunners*^ [5]

1935–1936

19351936 NFL teams
Eastern DivisionWestern Division
Boston Redskins Chicago Bears
Brooklyn Dodgers Chicago Cardinals
New York Giants Detroit Lions
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers
Pittsburgh Pirates

1937–1939

The Cleveland Rams would join the league from the AFL II and the Boston Redskins would move to Washington, D.C. in 1937. The league raised the roster limit to 30 players per team effective with the 1938 season. [3]

1937 name change
1936 team name1937 team name
Boston Redskins Washington Redskins
1937 is first season in NFL *
19371939 NFL teams
Eastern DivisionWestern Division
Brooklyn Dodgers Chicago Bears
New York Giants Chicago Cardinals
Philadelphia Eagles Cleveland Rams *
Pittsburgh Pirates Detroit Lions
Washington Redskins Green Bay Packers

The 1940s: World War II mergers

1940–1942

The Pittsburgh franchise changed its nickname from the Pirates to the Steelers before the start of the 1940 campaign. The NFL also raised the maximum number of players allowed on a league roster from 30 to 33 players effective with the 1940 season. [3]

1940 name change
1939 team name1940 team name
Pittsburgh Pirates Pittsburgh Steelers
Team mothballed after season, rejoined league 1944 §
19401942 NFL teams
Eastern DivisionWestern Division
Brooklyn Dodgers Chicago Bears
New York Giants Chicago Cardinals
Philadelphia Eagles Cleveland Rams §
Pittsburgh Steelers Detroit Lions
Washington Redskins Green Bay Packers

1943

As America became more deeply embroiled in World War II, the Cleveland Rams suspend operations for the 1943 season due to a major loss in players. The Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers were able to work around the player shortage by merging to form the "Phil-Pitt Steagles."

Size of the active roster reduced from 33 to 28 players per team. [6] Intent of this reduction was to appease the Office of Defense Transportation by reducing the impact of travel by road teams. [7] Additionally, teams primarily used day coaches rather than sleeper cars, a more efficient albeit less comfortable mode of travel. [7] This continued through the 1944 season.

Two teams merge for season †
1943 NFL teams
Eastern DivisionWestern Division
Brooklyn Dodgers Chicago Bears
New York Giants Chicago Cardinals
Phil-Pitt Steagles Detroit Lions
Washington Redskins Green Bay Packers

1944

1944 name change
1943 team name1944 team name
Brooklyn Dodgers Brooklyn Tigers
First season in NFL *Rejoined the NFL **Two teams merge for season †
1944 NFL teams
Eastern DivisionWestern Division
Boston Yanks * Chicago Bears
Brooklyn Tigers Card-Pitt
New York Giants Cleveland Rams **
Philadelphia Eagles Detroit Lions
Washington Redskins Green Bay Packers

1945

The Card-Pitt team was resplit into the Chicago Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers for the 1945 season. The Brooklyn Tigers franchise was merged with Boston Yanks, named simply "The Yanks." The Active player limit was returned to its pre-war size of 33 players. [6]

Two teams merge for season †
1945 NFL teams
Eastern DivisionWestern Division
The Yanks Chicago Bears
New York Giants Chicago Cardinals
Philadelphia Eagles Cleveland Rams
Pittsburgh Steelers Detroit Lions
Washington Redskins Green Bay Packers

1946–1948

The National Football League began to colonize the Pacific coast when the Cleveland Rams moved to Los Angeles, California ahead of the 1946 season. With World War II at an end, the Boston Yanks resumed normal operations, although the Brooklyn Tigers franchise was permanently terminated. Effective with the 1948 season, the NFL again raised its roster limit for member teams, increasing the maximum from 33 to 35 players. [3]

1946 name change
1945 team name1946 team name
Cleveland Rams Los Angeles Rams
Last active season was 1948 ^
19461948 NFL teams
Eastern DivisionWestern Division
Boston Yanks ^ Chicago Bears
New York Giants Chicago Cardinals
Philadelphia Eagles Detroit Lions
Pittsburgh Steelers Green Bay Packers
Washington Redskins Los Angeles Rams

1949

The Boston Yanks ceased operations at the end of the 1948 season, with remains of the team enfranchised for 1949 as the New York Bulldogs. Size of the active roster was reduced to 32 players. [6]

First season in NFL *
1949 NFL teams
Eastern DivisionWestern Division
New York Bulldogs * Chicago Bears
New York Giants Chicago Cardinals
Philadelphia Eagles Detroit Lions
Pittsburgh Steelers Green Bay Packers
Washington Redskins Los Angeles Rams

The 1950s: AAFC merger

1950

1950 name change
1949 team name1950 team name
New York Bulldogs New York Yanks
Teams merge from AAFC **Last active season ^
1950 NFL teams
American ConferenceNational Conference
Chicago Cardinals Baltimore Colts ** ^
Cleveland Browns ** Chicago Bears
New York Giants Detroit Lions
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers
Pittsburgh Steelers Los Angeles Rams
Washington Redskins New York Yanks
San Francisco 49ers **

1951

The NFL increased the maximum size of team rosters from 32 to 33 players effective with the 1951 season. This would remain in effect through 1956. [6] The New York Yanks franchise terminated following the 1951 season.

Last active season ^
1951 NFL teams
American ConferenceNational Conference
Chicago Cardinals Chicago Bears
Cleveland Browns Detroit Lions
New York Giants Green Bay Packers
Philadelphia Eagles Los Angeles Rams
Pittsburgh Steelers New York Yanks ^
Washington Redskins San Francisco 49ers

1952

The Dallas Texans franchise was launched with the remains of the now-defunct New York Yanks, but the team terminated after one season. It remains the last NFL team to fold due to financial reasons.

Only season in the league *^
1952 NFL teams
American ConferenceNational Conference
Chicago Cardinals Chicago Bears
Cleveland Browns Dallas Texans *^
New York Giants Detroit Lions
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers
Pittsburgh Steelers Los Angeles Rams
Washington Redskins San Francisco 49ers

1953–1959

The 1953 season saw a renaming of the league's two conferences, with the American Conference renamed the Eastern Conference and the National Conference renamed the Western Conference. A second and distinct Baltimore Colts team was enfranchised from the remains of the Dallas Texans. Effective with the 1957 season, the NFL raised its roster limit from 33 to 35 players per team. [3] The roster limit was raised again for the 1959 season, this time to 36 players per team. [8]

1953 is first season in NFL *
19531959 NFL teams
Eastern ConferenceWestern Conference
Chicago Cardinals Baltimore Colts *
Cleveland Browns Chicago Bears
New York Giants Detroit Lions
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers
Pittsburgh Steelers Los Angeles Rams
Washington Redskins San Francisco 49ers

The 1960s: NFL and AFL

1960

In 1960 the American Football League (AFL) began operations with eight teams as a rival to the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys were enfranchised by NFL. The year also marked the move of the Chicago Cardinals to St. Louis.

The roster limit was raised to 38 players per team for the 1960 season. [8]

1960 name change
1959 team name1960 team name
Chicago Cardinals St. Louis Cardinals
First season in NFL *
1960 AFL teams
Eastern Division Western Division
Boston Patriots Dallas Texans
Buffalo Bills Denver Broncos
Houston Oilers Los Angeles Chargers
Titans of New York Oakland Raiders
1960 NFL teams
Eastern Conference Western Conference
Cleveland Browns Baltimore Colts
New York Giants Chicago Bears
Philadelphia Eagles Dallas Cowboys *
Pittsburgh Steelers Detroit Lions
St. Louis Cardinals Green Bay Packers
Washington Redskins Los Angeles Rams
San Francisco 49ers

1961–1962

The NFL enfranchised the Minnesota Vikings in 1961, with the fledgling Dallas Cowboys moved to Eastern Division to balance division numbers. [9] The league also reduced the roster limit from 38 back to 36 players during these two years. [6]

The AFL's Los Angeles Chargers moved to San Diego.


1961 name change
1960 team name1961 team name
Los Angeles Chargers San Diego Chargers
1961 is first season in NFL *
19611962 AFL teams
Eastern Western
Boston Patriots Dallas Texans
Buffalo Bills Denver Broncos
Houston Oilers Oakland Raiders
Titans of New York San Diego Chargers
19611962 NFL teams
Eastern Western
Cleveland Browns Baltimore Colts
Dallas Cowboys Chicago Bears
New York Giants Detroit Lions
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers
Pittsburgh Steelers Los Angeles Rams
St. Louis Cardinals Minnesota Vikings *
Washington Redskins San Francisco 49ers

1963–1965

In the AFL, facing a divided sports market due to the establishment of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, the Dallas Texans moved to Kansas City to become the Kansas City Chiefs. The New York Titans were also renamed as the New York Jets.

In the NFL, the roster limit was raised in 1963 to 37 players and in 1964 to 40 players — a number which remained constant until the end of the 1973 season. [6]

1963 name changes
1962 team name1963 team name
Dallas Texans Kansas City Chiefs
Titans of New York New York Jets
19631965 AFL teams
Eastern Western
Boston Patriots Denver Broncos
Buffalo Bills Kansas City Chiefs
Houston Oilers Oakland Raiders
New York Jets San Diego Chargers
19631965 NFL teams
Eastern Western
Cleveland Browns Baltimore Colts
Dallas Cowboys Chicago Bears
New York Giants Detroit Lions
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers
Pittsburgh Steelers Los Angeles Rams
St. Louis Cardinals Minnesota Vikings
Washington Redskins San Francisco 49ers

1966

The 1966 season saw the Atlanta Falcons enfranchised by the NFL and the Miami Dolphins by the AFL. The two leagues played the first AFL-NFL championship game (later known as the Super Bowl) after the conclusion of the season.

First season in NFL *First season in AFL **
1966 AFL teams
Eastern Western
Boston Patriots Denver Broncos
Buffalo Bills Kansas City Chiefs
Houston Oilers Oakland Raiders
Miami Dolphins ** San Diego Chargers
New York Jets
1966 NFL teams
Eastern Western
Atlanta Falcons * Baltimore Colts
Cleveland Browns Chicago Bears
Dallas Cowboys Detroit Lions
New York Giants Green Bay Packers
Philadelphia Eagles Los Angeles Rams
Pittsburgh Steelers Minnesota Vikings
St. Louis Cardinals San Francisco 49ers
Washington Redskins

1967

First season in NFL *
1967 AFL teams
Eastern Western
Boston Patriots Denver Broncos
Buffalo Bills Kansas City Chiefs
Houston Oilers Oakland Raiders
Miami Dolphins San Diego Chargers
New York Jets
1967 NFL teams
Eastern Western
Capitol Century Central Coastal
Dallas Cowboys Cleveland Browns Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons
New Orleans Saints * New York Giants Detroit Lions Baltimore Colts
Philadelphia Eagles Pittsburgh Steelers Green Bay Packers Los Angeles Rams
Washington Redskins St. Louis Cardinals Minnesota Vikings San Francisco 49ers

1968

First season in AFL **
1968 AFL teams
Eastern Western
Boston Patriots Cincinnati Bengals **
Buffalo Bills Denver Broncos
Houston Oilers Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins Oakland Raiders
New York Jets San Diego Chargers
1968 NFL teams
Eastern Western
Capitol Century Central Coastal
Dallas Cowboys Cleveland Browns Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons
New York Giants New Orleans Saints Detroit Lions Baltimore Colts
Philadelphia Eagles Pittsburgh Steelers Green Bay Packers Los Angeles Rams
Washington Redskins St. Louis Cardinals Minnesota Vikings San Francisco 49ers

1969

1969 AFL teams
Eastern Western
Boston Patriots Cincinnati Bengals
Buffalo Bills Denver Broncos
Houston Oilers Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins Oakland Raiders
New York Jets San Diego Chargers
1969 NFL teams
Eastern Western
Capitol Century Central Coastal
Dallas Cowboys Cleveland Browns Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons
New Orleans Saints New York Giants Detroit Lions Baltimore Colts
Philadelphia Eagles Pittsburgh Steelers Green Bay Packers Los Angeles Rams
Washington Redskins St. Louis Cardinals Minnesota Vikings San Francisco 49ers

The 1970s: AFL–NFL merger

1970

1970 NFL teams
AFC East Central West
Baltimore Colts Cincinnati Bengals Denver Broncos
Boston Patriots Cleveland Browns Kansas City Chiefs
Buffalo Bills Houston Oilers Oakland Raiders
Miami Dolphins Pittsburgh Steelers San Diego Chargers
New York Jets
NFC East Central West
Dallas Cowboys Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons
New York Giants Detroit Lions Los Angeles Rams
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints
St. Louis Cardinals Minnesota Vikings San Francisco 49ers
Washington Redskins

1971–1975

The Boston Patriots are renamed New England Patriots. Size of the active player roster was increased in 1974 from 40 to 47 players before being lowered to 43 the following season. [6]

19711975 NFL teams
AFC East Central West
Baltimore Colts Cincinnati Bengals Denver Broncos
Buffalo Bills Cleveland Browns Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins Houston Oilers Oakland Raiders
New England Patriots Pittsburgh Steelers San Diego Chargers
New York Jets
NFC East Central West
Dallas Cowboys Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons
New York Giants Detroit Lions Los Angeles Rams
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints
St. Louis Cardinals Minnesota Vikings San Francisco 49ers
Washington Redskins

1976

First season in NFL *
1976 NFL teams
AFC East Central West
Baltimore Colts Cincinnati Bengals Denver Broncos
Buffalo Bills Cleveland Browns Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins Houston Oilers Oakland Raiders
New England Patriots Pittsburgh Steelers San Diego Chargers
New York Jets Tampa Bay Buccaneers *
NFC East Central West
Dallas Cowboys Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons
New York Giants Detroit Lions Los Angeles Rams
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints
St. Louis Cardinals Minnesota Vikings San Francisco 49ers
Washington Redskins Seattle Seahawks *

1977–1981

There was realignment of divisions with Seattle moving from the NFC West to the AFC West and Tampa Bay moving from the AFC West to the NFC Central. In 1978 the size of the active roster was increased from 43 to 45 players, where it would remain through the 1981 season. [6]

19771981 NFL teams
AFC East Central West
Baltimore Colts Cincinnati Bengals Denver Broncos
Buffalo Bills Cleveland Browns Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins Houston Oilers Oakland Raiders
New England Patriots Pittsburgh Steelers San Diego Chargers
New York Jets Seattle Seahawks
NFC East Central West
Dallas Cowboys Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons
New York Giants Detroit Lions Los Angeles Rams
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints
St. Louis Cardinals Minnesota Vikings San Francisco 49ers
Washington Redskins Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The 1980s and 1990s: Relocation and Expansion

1982–1983

The Oakland Raiders relocated to Los Angeles. After the first two games of the 1982 season the size of the active roster was increased from 45 to 49 players, where it would remain through the end of the 1984 season. [6]

19821983 NFL teams
AFC East Central West
Baltimore Colts Cincinnati Bengals Denver Broncos
Buffalo Bills Cleveland Browns Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins Houston Oilers Los Angeles Raiders
New England Patriots Pittsburgh Steelers San Diego Chargers
New York Jets Seattle Seahawks
NFC East Central West
Dallas Cowboys Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons
New York Giants Detroit Lions Los Angeles Rams
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints
St. Louis Cardinals Minnesota Vikings San Francisco 49ers
Washington Redskins Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1984–1987

The Baltimore Colts moved to Indianapolis in 1984. In 1985 size of the active roster was reduced again from 49 to 45 — where it would remain through the end of the 1990 season. [6]

19841987 NFL teams
AFC East Central West
Buffalo Bills Cincinnati Bengals Denver Broncos
Indianapolis Colts Cleveland Browns Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins Houston Oilers Los Angeles Raiders
New England Patriots Pittsburgh Steelers San Diego Chargers
New York Jets Seattle Seahawks
NFC East Central West
Dallas Cowboys Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons
New York Giants Detroit Lions Los Angeles Rams
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints
St. Louis Cardinals Minnesota Vikings San Francisco 49ers
Washington Redskins Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1988–1993

The St. Louis Cardinals moved to Phoenix in 1988. In 1991 the league allowed teams to add a third "emergency" quarterback to their active 45 man rosters — a system that would remain in effect through the end of the 2010 season. [6]

19881993 NFL teams
AFC East Central West
Buffalo Bills Cincinnati Bengals Denver Broncos
Indianapolis Colts Cleveland Browns Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins Houston Oilers Los Angeles Raiders
New England Patriots Pittsburgh Steelers San Diego Chargers
New York Jets Seattle Seahawks
NFC East Central West
Dallas Cowboys Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons
New York Giants Detroit Lions Los Angeles Rams
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints
Phoenix Cardinals Minnesota Vikings San Francisco 49ers
Washington Redskins Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1994

1994 NFL teams
AFC East Central West
Buffalo Bills Cincinnati Bengals Denver Broncos
Indianapolis Colts Cleveland Browns Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins Houston Oilers Los Angeles Raiders
New England Patriots Pittsburgh Steelers San Diego Chargers
New York Jets Seattle Seahawks
NFC East Central West
Arizona Cardinals Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons
Dallas Cowboys Detroit Lions Los Angeles Rams
New York Giants Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints
Philadelphia Eagles Minnesota Vikings San Francisco 49ers
Washington Redskins Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1995

First season in NFL *
1995 NFL teams
AFC East Central West
Buffalo Bills Cincinnati Bengals Denver Broncos
Indianapolis Colts Cleveland Browns Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins Houston Oilers Oakland Raiders
New England Patriots Jacksonville Jaguars * San Diego Chargers
New York Jets Pittsburgh Steelers Seattle Seahawks
NFC East Central West
Arizona Cardinals Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons
Dallas Cowboys Detroit Lions Carolina Panthers *
New York Giants Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints
Philadelphia Eagles Minnesota Vikings St. Louis Rams
Washington Redskins Tampa Bay Buccaneers San Francisco 49ers

1996

First season in NFL *
1996 NFL teams
AFC East Central West
Buffalo Bills Baltimore Ravens * Denver Broncos
Indianapolis Colts Cincinnati Bengals Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins Houston Oilers Oakland Raiders
New England Patriots Jacksonville Jaguars San Diego Chargers
New York Jets Pittsburgh Steelers Seattle Seahawks
NFC East Central West
Arizona Cardinals Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons
Dallas Cowboys Detroit Lions Carolina Panthers
New York Giants Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints
Philadelphia Eagles Minnesota Vikings St. Louis Rams
Washington Redskins Tampa Bay Buccaneers San Francisco 49ers

1997–1998

19971998 NFL teams
AFC East Central West
Buffalo Bills Baltimore Ravens Denver Broncos
Indianapolis Colts Cincinnati Bengals Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins Jacksonville Jaguars Oakland Raiders
New England Patriots Pittsburgh Steelers San Diego Chargers
New York Jets Tennessee Oilers Seattle Seahawks
NFC East Central West
Arizona Cardinals Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons
Dallas Cowboys Detroit Lions Carolina Panthers
New York Giants Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints
Philadelphia Eagles Minnesota Vikings St. Louis Rams
Washington Redskins Tampa Bay Buccaneers San Francisco 49ers

1999–2001

19992001 NFL teams
AFC East Central West
Buffalo Bills Baltimore Ravens Denver Broncos
Indianapolis Colts Cincinnati Bengals Kansas City Chiefs
Miami Dolphins Cleveland Browns Oakland Raiders
New England Patriots Jacksonville Jaguars San Diego Chargers
New York Jets Pittsburgh Steelers Seattle Seahawks
Tennessee Titans
NFC East Central West
Arizona Cardinals Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons
Dallas Cowboys Detroit Lions Carolina Panthers
New York Giants Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints
Philadelphia Eagles Minnesota Vikings St. Louis Rams
Washington Redskins Tampa Bay Buccaneers San Francisco 49ers

The 2000s: Realignment

2002–2015

In 2011 the active roster limit was shifted from 45 + 1 emergency quarterback to an undifferentiated 46 players. This would remain in effect through the end of the 2019 campaign. [6]

2002 is first season in NFL *
20022015 NFL teams [10] [11] [12]
AFC East North South West
Buffalo Bills Baltimore Ravens Houston Texans * Denver Broncos
Miami Dolphins Cincinnati Bengals Indianapolis Colts Kansas City Chiefs
New England Patriots Cleveland Browns Jacksonville Jaguars Oakland Raiders
New York Jets Pittsburgh Steelers Tennessee Titans San Diego Chargers
NFC East North South West
Dallas Cowboys Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons Arizona Cardinals
New York Giants Detroit Lions Carolina Panthers St. Louis Rams
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints San Francisco 49ers
Washington Redskins Minnesota Vikings Tampa Bay Buccaneers Seattle Seahawks

2016

2016 NFL teams [10] [11] [12]
AFC East North South West
Buffalo Bills Baltimore Ravens Houston Texans Denver Broncos
Miami Dolphins Cincinnati Bengals Indianapolis Colts Kansas City Chiefs
New England Patriots Cleveland Browns Jacksonville Jaguars Oakland Raiders
New York Jets Pittsburgh Steelers Tennessee Titans San Diego Chargers
NFC East North South West
Dallas Cowboys Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons Arizona Cardinals
New York Giants Detroit Lions Carolina Panthers Los Angeles Rams
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints San Francisco 49ers
Washington Redskins Minnesota Vikings Tampa Bay Buccaneers Seattle Seahawks

2017–2019

20172019 NFL teams [10] [11] [12]
AFC East North South West
Buffalo Bills Baltimore Ravens Houston Texans Denver Broncos
Miami Dolphins Cincinnati Bengals Indianapolis Colts Kansas City Chiefs
New England Patriots Cleveland Browns Jacksonville Jaguars Los Angeles Chargers
New York Jets Pittsburgh Steelers Tennessee Titans Oakland Raiders
NFC East North South West
Dallas Cowboys Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons Arizona Cardinals
New York Giants Detroit Lions Carolina Panthers Los Angeles Rams
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints San Francisco 49ers
Washington Redskins Minnesota Vikings Tampa Bay Buccaneers Seattle Seahawks

2020–2021

The size of the active roster was increased to 47 players — 48 if there were 8 offensive linemen activated. [6]

20202021 NFL teams
AFC East North South West
Buffalo Bills Baltimore Ravens Houston Texans Denver Broncos
Miami Dolphins Cincinnati Bengals Indianapolis Colts Kansas City Chiefs
New England Patriots Cleveland Browns Jacksonville Jaguars Las Vegas Raiders
New York Jets Pittsburgh Steelers Tennessee Titans Los Angeles Chargers
NFC East North South West
Dallas Cowboys Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons Arizona Cardinals
New York Giants Detroit Lions Carolina Panthers Los Angeles Rams
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints San Francisco 49ers
Washington Football Team Minnesota Vikings Tampa Bay Buccaneers Seattle Seahawks

2022–present

The Washington Football Team was renamed Washington Commanders in 2022. In 2023 the 47 man active roster was expanded to allow a third "emergency" quarterback. [6]

2022–present NFL teams
AFC East North South West
Buffalo Bills Baltimore Ravens Houston Texans Denver Broncos
Miami Dolphins Cincinnati Bengals Indianapolis Colts Kansas City Chiefs
New England Patriots Cleveland Browns Jacksonville Jaguars Las Vegas Raiders
New York Jets Pittsburgh Steelers Tennessee Titans Los Angeles Chargers
NFC East North South West
Dallas Cowboys Chicago Bears Atlanta Falcons Arizona Cardinals
New York Giants Detroit Lions Carolina Panthers Los Angeles Rams
Philadelphia Eagles Green Bay Packers New Orleans Saints San Francisco 49ers
Washington Commanders Minnesota Vikings Tampa Bay Buccaneers Seattle Seahawks

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

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  4. Left the league before the final three games were completed
  5. Replaced Cincinati for the final three games
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