White ranks as greatest free agent of all time
The late Reggie White ranks as the greatest free agent of all time. Find out who else is in the top 10.
Below are 10 greatest players to hit the open market since 1993, which was the first year of free agency in its current form:
1. Reggie White, defensive lineman
Signed with Packers in 1993
The first year of free agency in the NFL saw one of the best defensive players in history make a surprising move that helped return the Packers to championship form. White left the Eagles and signed a four-year, $17 million contract with the Packers in 1993.
2. Deion Sanders, cornerback
Signed with 49ers in 1994 and Cowboys in 1995
Sanders made free-agent magic for two teams in back-to-back seasons. After five seasons with the Falcons, he parted ways with the team and signed a one-year contract with the 49ers in September of 1994. In 14 games with the 49ers that season, Sanders had six interceptions, returning three for touchdowns, and was named the defensive player of the year as the 49ers won their fifth Super Bowl title.
3. Curtis Martin, running back
Signed with Jets in 1998
Then-Patriots head coach Bill Parcells selected Martin in the third round in the 1995 draft. When Parcells eventually wound up with the Jets, he knew he had to have his man. In '98, the Jets signed Martin to a six-year, $36 million offer sheet, and when the Patriots declined to match, New York ensured the services of a player who would wind up as the league's fourth-leading rusher of all time.
4. Marcus Allen, running back
Signed with Chiefs in 1993
After 11 sometimes tumultuous seasons with the Raiders, Allen found a new NFL life when he signed as an unrestricted free agent in 1993 with one of Oakland's most-hated rivals -- the Kansas City Chiefs.
5. Adam Vinatieri, place-kicker
Signed with the Colts in 2006
If you can't beat them (consistently), then take away their players. The Colts' signing of Vinatieri was not only a major addition for Indianapolis (which had grown wary of unpredictable PK Mike Vanderjagt), but hurt the rival Patriots, who had won three Super Bowls the previous five years.
6. Priest Holmes, running back
Signed with Chiefs in 2001
Talk about making the most of a career. Holmes was an undrafted free agent signed by Baltimore in 1997 and was a very productive player, starting against the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. But in 2000, the same year the Ravens won that NFL championship, the organization drafted RB Jamal Lewis with the fifth overall selection, and it was Lewis who gained 100-plus yards rushing in the Super Bowl.
7. Plaxico Burress, wide receiver
Signed with Giants in 2005
Burress assured his place on this list with 35 seconds remaining in Super Bowl XLII. And this is a guy who had no receptions in his first postseason game with the Giants back in 2005 against the Panthers. Burress has 3,227 receiving yards and 29 TD receptions in three seasons after signing a six-year, $25 million contract with the Giants prior to the 2005 season.
8. Lorenzo Neal, fullback
Signed with Chargers in 2003
It would be wrong to just focus on Neal's days in San Diego, but we'll use that as a jumping-off point because that's where the former Fresno State product currently resides. The well-traveled fullback has been a free agent (and once-traded) sensation for many teams (Saints, Jets, Buccaneers, Titans, Bengals and Chargers) after beginning his career with New Orleans in 1993. The veteran has paved the way for 11 straight 1,000-yard rushing performances (including the last five by RB LaDainian Tomlinson) and has been named to four Pro Bowls (including 3 straight with the Chargers).
9. Mike Vrabel, linebacker
Signed with Patriots in 2001
Who knew that a relatively obscure signing would turn into one of the most important players for the team of this decade. With the Steelers' surplus of outside linebackers, Vrabel became a free agent following the 2000 season. He signed a three-year, $5.29 million contract with the Patriots.
10. Steve Hutchinson, guard
Signed with Vikings in 2006
It wasn't long ago that Seahawks LT Walter Jones and then-teammate Hutchinson were considered the best left side in the league, helping RB Shaun Alexander capture NFL MVP honors in '05. But inexplicably in '06, Seattle opted to designate Hutchinson a "transition" player rather than give him the "franchise" tag, and the crafty Vikings signed the blocker extraordinaire to a seven-year, $49 million offer sheet that was virtually impossible for the Seahawks to match.
And because there's no compensation for a transition player (opposed to a pair of first-round draft choices for a franchise player), it's the Vikings who are now in the discussion (with LT Bryant McKinnie and C Matt Birk) as the team with the best left side in the league -- one that now paves the way for RB Adrian Peterson.
David Rose and Russell S. Baxter work in the research department of ESPN.
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2008 FREE AGENCY
NFL teams began shopping for free agents on Feb. 29, with approximately 320 players available. Randy Moss (right), one of the top free agents available, re-signed with the Pats.
• Free-agent tracker
Commentary/Features• Paolantonio: Raiders wasting cash on Hall
• Clayton: Raiders immersed in spending spree
• Yasinskas: Bucs spending wisely
• Third And Short: Free-agent analysis
• Clayton: Best remaining players
• Clayton: Top 10 free-agent gambles
• Yasinskas: Saints rolling dice on Vilma, Morgan
• Sando: Role players cashing in
• Yasinskas: Jets improved, but QB remains issue
• Yasinskas: Browns focused on winning
• Clayton: Moss-Patriots deal meant to be
• Clayton: Winners and losers
• Chadiha: Reese sets the standard for rookie GMs
• Yasinskas: Five aggressive teams in the market
• Pasquarelli: Big payoffs await less-heralded FAs
• Clayton: It's better to keep your own guys
• Research: Top 10 free agents of all time
• Yasinskas: Redskins to try new approach
• Joyner: Evaluating four big names
• Chadiha: Dealing with the franchise tag
• Panthers continue O-line makeover, sign Brown
• Browns help LB depth, sign Orr to 1-year contract March 20
• Pats agree to deal with CB Bryant
• Roundup: Rams re-sign Romberg March 19
• Packers agree with LB Chillar
• Bengals' Andrews signs franchise tender
• Punter Turk re-signs with Texans
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