Best free agent signings in NFL history: Tom Brady, Reggie White, Peyton Manning headline legendary list

By Bryan DeArdo
Mar 7, 2024

Free agency has become firmly entrenched on the NFL calendar. Like a kid on Christmas morning, NFL fans awake on the first day of free agency with hope, anticipation and excitement.

More than a few free agent signings have altered the course of history. Several players etched out Hall of Fame careers after joining forces with a new team. More than a few players only added to their Hall of Fame resumes via free agency. One player helped usher in the free agency era while leading a franchise to prominence.

With another free agent season upon us, we decided to rank the top 10 free agent signings in NFL history.

10. RB Curtis Martin, Jets (1998)

Martin jumped at the chance to reunite with Bill Parcells (his former coach with the Patriots) in New York. With Martin leading the way, the Jets got to within a game of the Super Bowl in 1998. Martin would continue to have success over the next seven years. He had seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with Gang Green and in 2004 became the oldest player (31) to win the rushing title.

9. WR Cris Carter, Vikings (1990)

Carter was released after off-field issues prevented him from reaching his potential in Philadelphia. He took full advantage of his second opportunity in Minnesota, where Carter blossomed into a Hall of Fame player.

From 1993-20, Carter earned eight consecutive Pro Bowl nods, led the NFL in receptions in 1994 and paced the league in touchdown catches three times. His success helped the Vikings capture four division titles in addition to two NFC title game appearances.

8. John Riggins, Washington (1976)

Before the 1990s, star players signing with a new team in free agency was rare. But it was something Riggins did following a mostly successful five-year run with the New York Jets.

Riggins initially struggled in Washington before finding his groove in 1978. After a brief retirement in 1980, Riggins returned to Washington in 1981. A year later, he orchestrated one of the greatest individual performances in postseason history that culminated in Washington’s first Super Bowl win.

7. CB Charles Woodson, Packers (2006)

Woodson was looking for a fresh start after leaving Oakland, and he found exactly that in Green Bay. He had eight picks during his first season in Green Bay and had 38 interceptions in seven years with the team. Woodson won Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2009 and a year later played a key role in the Packers’ first Super Bowl win in 14 years.

Read the complete CBS Sports article.