Believe it or not, NFL free agency has only been around 20 years. Hard to believe we had a football offseason without it. The list of failed free agent adventures would be long and sad, so on the verge of the opening of free agency in 2013, I decided to inspire. Here is my list of the best moves in the history of free agency.
20. Adam Vinatieri– The Patriots let arguably the greatest kicker of all-time walk, and their loss was the Colts reward, still kicking for them today, and helped them to a Super Bowl, albeit, without the heart-stopping, clutch-kick to finish it.
19. Shannon Sharpe– The HOF tight end would finish his career in Baltimore, setting multiple NFL records, and providing many times, the only offense for the Ravens, as they went on to win a Super Bowl.
18. Darren Sharper- He isn’t the last guy on this list that will be featured more than once, leaving Green Bay for Minnesota, and making a couple of Pro Bowls before departing again for New Orleans, having a career year, and winning his first, and the Saints first, Super Bowl.
17. Ken Norton Jr.- The Cowboys loss was the 49ers gain, immediately paying dividends with a Super Bowl championship.
16. Brad Johnson– From journeyman to Super Bowl champion with the Bucs.
15. Kevin Mawae– The Titans may have let him go too early as Mawae went to 6 straight Pro Bowls after joining the Jets.
14. Keenan McCardell– Didn’t travel with the Browns to Baltimore, instead the Jags picked him up and he became part of a potent 1-2 punch with WR Jimmy Smith helped Jacksonville to a pair of AFC Title Games.
13. Michael Turner– Turner got his chance to play after being LT2’s caddy in San Diego, and didn’t disappoint rushing for 1699 yards and 17 TD’s in his first year in Atlanta and being part of the Falcons turnaround.
12. Priest Holmes– Speaking of emerging from the shadows (Ricky Williams at Texas and Jamal Lewis at Baltimore) Holmes turned into an NFL record-setter with the Chiefs and a fantasy football MVP.
11. Rich Gannon– Being named MVP and getting to a Super Bowl in Oakland made the Raiders under-the-radar signing pay off big-time in one of the few good moves made by the Raiders in the past 20 years.
10. Justin Smith– This one is still paying off for the 49ers. A solid player in Cincinnati has turned into one of the most valuable players in the league.
9. Mike Vrabel– A useful player in Pittsburgh became Mr. Do-Everything for the New England Patriots in their run of Super Bowl titles by sacking quarterbacks, making interceptions, forcing fumbles, and even catching TD passes in the Super Bowl from Tom Brady.
8. Simeon Rice– After leaving the desert he put up 30 sacks in his first two years with Tampa Bay and won a Super Bowl, and remained solid for years after that.
7. Charles Woodson– A promising career looked lost in Oakland, but was revived and rewarded with a title and defensive player of the year honor with the Packers.
6. Curtis Martin– The Jets offer was too rich for the Patriots to match, and all Martin did was go on to be the leading rusher in Jets history.
5. Deion Sanders (twice!)– Where do you put the hired gun of all hired guns? Primetime left Atlanta, won a Super Bowl with the 49ers, and then left San Francisco the next year, and won a title with the Cowboys.
4. Rod Woodson– He was a HOF corner with Pittsburgh, and went to Baltimore to become a HOF safety and win a Super Bowl with one of the greatest defenses ever.
3. Kurt Warner– After being a cast-off once, he was given up on again after a poor showing with the Giants and being replaced by Eli Manning, he resuscitated his career, and lifted the lowly Cardinals to the Super Bowl.
2. Reggie White– 20 years ago he got this started when he said God told him to go to Green Bay. Playing at an All-Pro level, and getting 3 sacks in the Super Bowl, things worked out.
1. Drew Brees– Changing the face of a downtrodden franchise, coming off a natural disaster, and winning a Super Bowl gets you the top spot.