White ranks as top free agent of all time
Below are 10 greatest players to hit the open market since 1993, 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.
The Minister of Defense Reggie White retired as the league's all-time leader in sacks before passing away in 2004 at the age of 43.
White played six seasons in Green Bay, recording 68½ sacks and winning defensive player of the year honors in his final season with the Packers in 1998. The Packers reached the postseason in all six of White's season with the team. His Super Bowl-record three sacks in Super Bowl XXXI against the Patriots helped give the Packers their first Super Bowl title in 29 years.
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.
After the Cowboys saw the 49ers end their two-year reign as Super Bowl champions, the Cowboys signed Sanders to a long-term deal in September of 1995. Sanders helped lead the Cowboys to their third Super Bowl title in four seasons. He played five seasons in Big D.
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 later became the league's fourth-leading rusher of all time.
After rushing for 1,000-plus yards in each of his first three seasons with New England, Martin turned that trick in seven straight seasons with New York. In 2004 at age 31, he totaled a league-best 1,697 yards, becoming the oldest player in NFL history to lead the league in rushing.
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.
Allen teamed with Joe Montana to pay immediate dividends. He led the AFC with 15 total touchdowns (12 rushing, 3 receiving) and helped lead the Chiefs to the AFC Championship Game that season. In all, Allen scored 47 of his 145 career total touchdowns in five seasons as a Chief before retiring following the 1997 season.
5. Adam Vinatieri, place-kicker
Signed with the Colts in 2006
If you can't beat them (consistently), 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 also hurt the rival Patriots, who had won three Super Bowls the previous five years.
Vinatieri, a onetime rookie free-agent find (signed by the Patriots in 1996), was very pivotal during Indianapolis' Super Bowl run in '06. He set an NFL playoff record by scoring 49 points in the same postseason (14 field goals, 7 PATs), including all of the Colts' points in a 15-6 victory at Baltimore in the AFC divisional playoffs.
6. Priest Holmes, running back
Signed with Chiefs in 2001
Talk about making the most of a career. Holmes was an undrafted free agent whom Baltimore signed 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.
Holmes was signed by the Chiefs in 2001, and a good career became great before injuries in recent years forced him to retire. It's worth noting that in his first four seasons with the Chiefs, Holmes totaled 5,482 yards rushing, caught 225 passes for 2,163 yards and scored 76 touchdowns in 54 games. In his four seasons with the Ravens (1997 to 2000), Holmes ran for 2,102 yards, caught 88 passes for 585 yards and scored 11 touchdowns in 48 games.
7. Rich Gannon, quarterback
Signed with Raiders in 1999
The former Delaware Blue Hen went from journeyman quarterback to consistent passer, but it took a while for Gannon to find the right set of circumstances. After stints with the Vikings, Redskins and Chiefs, Gannon wound up in Oakland in 1999. Under the guidance of head coach Jon Gruden, Gannon turned into one of the most reliable signal-callers in the league.
Gannon led the Silver and Black to the AFC Championship Game in 2000, back to the playoffs in 2001 and to Super Bowl XXXVII in '02, a season during which he captured league MVP honors. After starting every game for the Raiders for four seasons (1999 to '02), injuries began to take their toll. Al Davis' team hasn't been the same since.
The No. 7 most versatile player of all time is New England Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel.
8. Mike Vrabel, linebacker
Signed with Patriots in 2001 (now with Chiefs)
Who knew that a relatively obscure signing would turn into one of the most important players for the team of this decade? Thanks to the Steelers' surplus of outside linebackers, Vrabel became a free agent after the 2000 season. He signed a three-year, $5.29 million contract with the Patriots.
In eight seasons with the team, Vrabel collected 48 sacks, including 12½ sacks during the 2007 season. He was selected to his first Pro Bowl that season. Also in New England (including during the playoffs), Vrabel caught 10 passes, with all 10 going for touchdowns. He had touchdown receptions in Super Bowl XXXVIII versus the Panthers and Super Bowl XXXIX versus the Eagles. Vrabel will take his act to Kansas City because he was traded with QB Matt Cassel to the Chiefs on Feb. 28.
9. Steve Hutchinson, guard
Signed with Vikings in 2006
It wasn't long ago when 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 (as opposed to a pair of first-round draft choices for a franchised player), the Vikings are now in the discussion (with LT Bryant McKinnie) as the team with the best left side in the league -- one that now paves the way for RB Adrian Peterson. Hutchinson has been named to six straight Pro Bowls, including in each of his three seasons with the Vikings.
10. Michael Turner, running back
Signed with Falcons in 2008
Although Turner has played only one season in Atlanta, the former Chargers backup exploded in his new home. Not only was he a huge reason the surprising Falcons improved seven games in one season (4-12 record in '07, 11-5 in '08) and reached the playoffs in Mike Smith's first season as head coach, but his steady presence in the backfield aided the development of rookie QB Matt Ryan. Turner finished second in the league in rushing with 1,699 yards, ran for 17 scores and was named to his first Pro Bowl.
David Rose and Russell S. Baxter work in the research department of ESPN.