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With the new league year fast approaching on March 17th, it brings about the real life version of musical chairs that is Free Agency. This is where eligible players have a chance to test the NFL waters and sign with any other franchise. Some players will use this opportunity to make as much money as possible (remember, the average NFL career is around three years, so why not try and cash in?) or to get themselves in with a contender and have a chance to win a Championship.

And if you’re really lucky, you’ll get to do both…

It’s also a chance for teams to go after players they feel can make them better and help them achieve their goal of raising the Lombardi trophy, but like most things in the NFL free agency can be very hit or miss.

So for this article, I’ve decided to have a look at five of the best free agency pick-ups (in no particular order) since it all began back in 1993. I will also be making another list looking at the five worst free agent signings, to be added shortly afterwards.

Reggie White helped usher in the free agency we know today. Photo Credit: 

1993: Reggie White to the Green Bay Packers

Why not start with the man who originally helped usher in the free agency system we know today. Back in 1993 the “Reggie White Settlement” allowed any NFL veteran with five or more years’ experience to become an unrestricted free agent, stopping clubs from placing the franchise or transition tag on them. It was a huge shift in how teams in the NFL operated and a win for the NFL Player’s Association, however I digress. 

Reggie White decided to take his talents from the Philadelphia Eagles where he had played eight seasons, amassing a total of 124 sacks (including a 21 sack season in 1987, earning him Defensive Player of the Year honours). In doing so, he joined a struggling Green Bay Packers squad who had not made the playoffs in a decade; almost instantly turning them into a contender and enhancing his Hall of Fame career even more.

White signed a four year deal worth $17 million, where he played another six seasons (taking them to the playoffs every year) and added another 68.5 sacks, helping the Packers defeat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI. He also added a second NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 1998 to his résumé.

Broncos look like Peyton Manning's last Super Bowl-winning team | Colorado  Public Radio
Peyton Manning broke records for most touchdown passes, passing yards in a season, whilst adding a second Super Bowl, when he joined the Broncos. Photo Credit: 

2012: Peyton Manning to the Denver Broncos

Since quarterback John Elway won back to back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998, it was tough times for the Broncos; going through a total of twelve signal callers, with only two playoff wins throughout the next fourteen years to show for it.

Then, in the 2012 offseason, Peyton Manning became available after a missed 2011 season due to a neck injury. The Broncos won his service, offering a five year deal worth $96 million, fending off a number of other interested teams.

“The Sheriff” went onto break multiple records in 2013, including the most touchdown passes in a season (55) and the single season passing yards record (5,477) taking the Broncos to two Super Bowls; LVIII and L, winning the latter. While Manning was a passenger for the majority of that winning Super Bowl season, he made the Broncos relevant again and solidified himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time (Manning, now along with Tom Brady, are the only two quarterbacks to win a Super Bowl with two different teams).

Deion Sanders helped the 49ers capture their fifth Super Bowl trophy. Photo Credit: 

1994: Deion Sanders to the San Francisco 49ers

After spending five seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, the 49ers signed “Prime Time” to a one year, $1.2 million contract. Sanders immediately paid dividends, recording six interceptions (three returned for touchdowns) winning Defensive Player of the Year while helping the 49ers rout the San Diego Chargers 49-26 in Super Bowl XXIX.  

1995: Deion Sanders to the Dallas Cowboys

I know I’m cheating a little here but it’s the same player, just one year apart. Plus it’s my list…

The year after winning the Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers, Deion Sanders was once again off to pastures new thanks to free agency. He signed with the 49ers’ then rivals, the Dallas Cowboys (getting a long term deal done; a five year, $30 million contract) and like the year before “Prime” made his presence felt, winning Super Bowl XXX his first year with the team and earning All-Pro honours three times.

Drew Brees has solidified his entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, during his fifteen years with the New Orleans Saints. Photo Credit: 

2006: Drew Brees to the New Orleans Saints

Before Drew Brees was setting all kinds of records and building his hall of fame career, he was a second round pick of the San Diego Chargers, before being picked up in 2006 by the New Orleans Saints who signed him to a six year, $60 million deal.

Since then, Drew Brees has made 12 Pro Bowls in 14 seasons, won Super Bowl XLIV, and broken multiple NFL records which include, but are not limited to: Career pass yards, career pass completions and leading the league in almost every regular season quarterback statistic you can think of.

It looks as though Brees is going to stick around for at least one more year and even though his arm may not be the same as it once was, should he be able guide the Saints to another Super Bowl, you could make a case for him being the greatest free agent signing of all time.

Arguably the greatest clutch kicker off all time, Vinatieri won a total of four Super Bowls, with the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts. Photo Credit: 

1996: Adam Vinatieri to the New England Patriots

Going for a slightly different choice on this one. You could argue there have been much better free agent acquisitions over the years, but kickers are important too and rightly deserve their time to shine. What can I say, I’m a man of the people… 

Adam Vinatieri was picked up as an undrafted free agent by the New England Patriots, who signed him to a $310,000 contract. This is notable because Vinatieri ended up playing ten years for the Patriots (and another fourteen years with the Indianapolis Colts) becoming the most clutch kicker of all time.

He won three Super Bowls with the Patriots, kicking a last second field goal to win two of them; Super Bowl XXXVI and XXXVIII and adding one more with the Colts in Super Bowl XLI (making him the only kicker in NFL history to have four Super Bowl wins). He was also named All-Pro three times. To top it all off, Vinatieri was also named to the NFL 2000s All Decade Team and the NFL 100th Anniversary All Time Team.

Not bad for an undrafted kicker.

So there you have it, a small selection of some of the best free agency signings ever. Have your own personal favourite free agency signings? Let me know in the comments below.

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