Most Impactful NFL Free Agency Signings Ever
With the 2018 NFL free agency at an all-time frenzy, we thought best to take a step back and rewind in history. In the era of salary caps, free agents often determine the franchises' fortunes. From leading the team and winning a ring, to proving a total dud and adversely impacting successive seasons for the city - free agents have always been in the limelight.
The most expensive free agents have not always delivered, and some relatively cheap ones have contributed to championships - that's the beauty of the NFL. Unlike simple math, the free agency involves multiple variables. From cap space and injury profile to the chemistry and emotional balance of the team, the management has plenty to think about before making that call.
Not only are the players and coaches on tenterhooks, the fanbases are equally nervous and excited about it. They are known to celebrate wildly when their team lands a prized free agent, and cause a public furore when one of their own jumps ship!
Over the past few years, we've all learned that big free agent signings don't equal big wins. Barring a few, not many have clicked as most hoped they would. Their performances have unfortunately not matched the insane amount of cash thrown at them.
Take, for example, Jairus Byrd who cost the Saints $54 million for a six-year deal. Not only did the signing not go as planned, it is also regarded as one of the worst deals in league history. With just one interception in a Saints uniform, the less said the better on this one!
While free agency deals have seriously backfired, some have changed the franchise fortunes forever. Looking back at some of the best value signings in NFL history, here go our top five free agent deals.
#5 Charles Woodson (2006, Green Bay Packers)
The first and only player to win the Heisman Trophy as a defensive player, Charles Woodson's career seemed to have nosedived during his stint with the Raiders in 2005. Enter 2006, and the Green Bay Packers offer him a contract - the only team to do so. He accepts it and the rest is history. Defensive Player of the Year honors and a Super Bowl later, his signing remains as one of the greatest in NFL history.
#4 Reggie White (1993, Green Bay Packers)
One of the most significant free agent signings in NFL history occurred in the summer of '93. The most coveted free agent then, White chose a surprising destination in Green Bay Packers. While they were the least favorites to sign him, the Packers leveraged on White's defensive prowess. Not surprisingly, he brought back the Vince Lombardi trophy after a brief dry spell for the Packers.
#3 Curtis Martin (1998, New York Jets)
Bill Parcells, the then head coach of the Jets pulled off a franchise signing in Curtis Martin, luring him away from the New England Patriots. Martin made an immediate impact, helping the Jets reach the AFC Championship game in his first season. While he had no title to show, he had a tremendous impact during his stint with the Jets.
#2 Drew Brees (2006, New Orleans Saints)
When Brees left San Diego, there were plenty of questions regarding his choice of franchise. Many considered it brave and stupid, for him to choose the Saints who were still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. In his very first season, Brees lifted the franchise and became the poster boy - reaching the NFC Championship Game. Three seasons later, he led the side to a Super Bowl Championship and setting multiple franchise records.
#1 Peyton Manning (2012, Denver Broncos)
One of the most sought-after free agents in NFL history, Peyton Manning shifted the balance of league when he joined the Denver Broncos after being released by the Colts in 2012. His free agency had the league and the franchise running like headless chickens, with multiple teams trying to lure him. When all the frenzy had slowly settled, Manning came out a champion and gifted the Broncos a Super Bowl Championship after a long time.