Best Free Agent Signings of All-Time
Reggie White, 1993, Green Bay Packers
After nine years with the Philadelphia Eagles, Reggie White became the best defensive player available during 1993 off-season.
The “Minster of Defense” was then swooped up by the Green bay Packers for a mere $17 million, and the rest, as they say is history.
In his six years in Green Bay, White wrapped up 68.5 sacks, becoming the, then, all-time Packers leader in the category, He also helped lead the Pack to two NFC Championships and one Super Bowl Championship.
His overall value as a team leader was unmatched and he was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 1998. In 2006, White was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame for his presence both on, and off the field.
Drew Brees, 2006, New Orleans Saints
After five years at the helm, Drew Brees tore his labrum in his throwing shoulder during the final game of the 2005 season. The San Diego Chargers decided to start the 2006 season with second-year quarterback, Philip Rivers, thus, giving the Pro Bowl, franchised Brees his walking papers.
The Miami Dolphins were talked out of signing Brees due to the unknown of his throwing shoulder’s healing. They traded for Daunte Culpepper. The New Orleans Saints took the risk to the tune of six years, $60 million.
Since the 2006 season, Brees has posted some unreal numbers including 33,571 yards, 247 touchdowns, over 40 New Orleans Saints passing records, Super Bowl XLIV Champion and MVP.
2011, Brees accomplished the remarkable feat of breaking Dan Marino’s 27-year old record of the most passing yards in a season with 5,084 – he finished with 5,476.
His records in both New Orleans and the NFL overall are too numerous to mention and he’s not done yet. In 2012, Brees and the Saints agreed to a five-year $100 million contract.
Deion Sanders, 1994, San Francisco 49ers
He has a name and it is Prime Time. In 1994, “Neon” Deion Sanders signed a one year, $1.2 million contract with the San Francisco 49ers and had easily the best year of his career.
He intercepted six passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns, including one over his former Falcons squad as he high stepped into the endzone.
After being voted the Defensive Player of the Year in ’94, he helped lead a 49ers team to a Super Bowl XXIX victory with an interception against the San Diego Chargers.
Deion Sanders II, 1995, Dallas Cowboys
They don’t call him “Prime Time” for nothing. The only man with the skills and longevity to make the list twice.
Following his stellar season with the Super Bowl Champion 49ers, the Cowboys won the services of Sanders over a handful of other teams for a sum of $85 million over seven years. The contract did not get done until week two of the ’95 season and due to arthroscopic surgery, he didn’t play until week nine.
He did, however, help the ‘Boys to their third Super Bowl title in four years showing impressive athleticism on both sides of the ball during Super Bowl XXX.
Over the next five years in Dallas, Prime recorded 14 interceptions, three defensive touchdowns, four punt returns for scores, 624 receiving yards and a touchdown on offense, as well as four Pro Bowl appearances.
Deion was immortalized in Canton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame on his first year of eligibility in 2011.
Warren Moon, 1984, Houston Oilers
In 1977, Warren Moon took his Washington Huskies to a National Championship. In 1978, Warren Moon went undrafted in the NFL and tried out his skills in the Canadian Football League. There, he led his Edmonton Eskimos to five straight CFL Championships and caught the eye of those who bypassed him in the draft.
In 1983, the Houston Oilers made him their starting quarterback and he started making history right away breaking the franchise record for passing yards with 3,338.
After 10 years with the Oilers, he helped lead the team to seven winning seasons including six trips to the postseason and falling just short of the Super Bowl.
After leaving Houston, following the 1993 season, Moon played for seven more seasons with the Vikings, Seahawks and Chiefs and finally retired in 2000.
Moon still ranks in the top 10 all-time in pass completions, attempts, yards and touchdowns, was voted into nine Pro Bowls and until 2006, held the record for most passing yardage in professional football (CFL + NFL career) .
Warren was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
Kurt Warner, 1998, St. Louis Rams
Before jumping to super stardom, Warner went undrafted in 1994 but was invited to try out with the Green Bay Packers. Competing for a job against Brett Favre and Mark Brunell, Warner was told by, quarterbacks coach, Steve Mariucci, that he wasn’t ready for the NFL.
Kurt went back to stocking groceries in the local Hy-Vee before turning to the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League. There, he led the Barnstormers to two Arena Bowl appearances and was finally signed as a third-stringer to the St. Louis Rams for the 1998 season.
In 1999, Warner would finally get his shot. During a preseason game, starting quarterback Trent Green tore his ACL and the team rallied around Kurt.
Warner arranged one of the greatest offensive units of all-time, “The Greatest Show on Turf,” to a Super Bowl XXXIV victory in 1999 and another appearance in 2001.
In his five years in St. Louis, Warner threw for over 14,000 yards, 102 touchdowns, received two MVP awards, as well as a Super Bowl MVP award and was named to three Pro Bowls.
Warner should be a shoe-in as a first ballot Hall of Famer when his first year of eligibility comes around following the 2014.
Johnny Unitas, 1956, Baltimore Colts
Following college, Johnny U. was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers and let go shortly thereafter for “not being smart enough to quarterback an NFL team.” He then played semipro ball for the Bloomfield Rams for $6 a game (not a typo!)
In 1956, he began his 17-year career with the Baltimore Colts. Four games into the season, an injury to starter George Shaw paved way for Unitas to begin his quest for greatness.
After setting a rookie record in ’56 for completion percentage (55.6), Johnny led the Colts to back-to-back championships in 1958 and ’59 as well as acquiring the first of his three MVP awards for leading the NFL in passing yards (2,899), touchdowns (32), and completions (193).
He went on to win two more MVP awards in ’64 and ’67, became the first quarterback to throw for more than 40,000 yards, as well as the first to throw for 30 touchdowns in a season. His record for consecutive games throwing a touchdown, 47 between 1956 and 1960, was finally broken by Drew Brees in 2012.
Johnny Unitas will always be one of the greatest to ever play the game and in 1979 it was proven as his bust was enshrined in the halls of Canton.