NFL free agency officially begins today, but millions of dollars have already been thrown around. From Nick Foles to Le’Veon Bell, teams are hoping their latest free agent additions will put them over the top. Here’s a look back at the top ten best signings of the 2000s; deals that ultimately turned some teams into champions.
TBD: Le’Veon Bell To The Jets (2019)
If Le’Veon Bell can return to the form that helped him pick up more than 1,800 combined yards in three different seasons, then the $52.5 million will be a worthy investment by the Jets. If Bell is unmotivated, this contract could turn into a nightmare.
10. Adam Vinatieri To The Colts (2006)
NFL fans don’t generally classify kickers as impact signees, but that’s exactly what Adam Vinatieri has been for the Indianapolis Colts. Signed away from the New England Patriots to the tune of three years and $7.5 million, Vinatieri has now stayed with Indy for 13 seasons. He’s converted at least 87 percent of his field goal attempts six times while with the Colts. He is the league’s all-time leader in points. Plus, the 46-year-old just signed another one-year deal with the team, returning for his 24th season in the NFL.
9. Jake Delhomme To The Panthers (2003)
Two years for a total of four million dollars. That’s what the Carolina Panthers initially paid for their future franchise QB. The former backup took over the Panthers offense in week one of the 2003 season. He wound up taking the team all the way to the Super Bowl. Delhomme gave one of the best performances ever by a non-Super Bowl winner. He tossed the ball for 323 yards, three TDs and zero INTs. His 113.6 rating was better than Tom Brady’s on that particular evening. Delhomme even set a Super Bowl record for longest pass in the big game; an 85-yard bomb to Muhsin Muhammad.
8. Jerry Rice To The Raiders (2001)
By the 2001 offseason, Jerry Rice was washed up. Even his former team, the San Francisco 49ers, thought so. Rice failed to reach 1,000 yards receiving in his final two years in San Fran, so he decided to join the Raiders for what many thought was his swan song. Not so fast; Rice caught 83 balls for 1,139 yards and nine TDs in his first year as a Raider. In year two, he was even better, grabbing 92 passes for 1,211 yards. Rice, Rich Gannon and Tim Brown led Oakland to a Super Bowl in 2002. And while the team lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Rice did become the only player ever to catch a TD in four different Super Bowls in the process.
7. London Fletcher To The Redskins (2007)
London Fletcher may be best remembered as the most underrated player in all of football. He signed a five-for-five deal with the Redskins in the prime of his career. The MLB recorded more than 90 tackles in four seasons with the Skins, picking off an impressive 12 passes along the way. Fletcher was finally named to a Pro Bowl in the 2009 season.
6. Brett Favre To The Vikings (2009)
Minnesota’s signing of Brett Favre only worked out for one season, but what a season it was! After fumbling and bumbling his way through a comeback season with the Jets, Favre chose to try his luck in Minnesota. His first year with the Vikings was arguably his best campaign as a pro. He set a career-high with a 68.4 completion percentage, along with 33 TDs to just 7 INTs. Minnesota finished the 2009 season with a 12-4 record. A costly INT prevented Favre from another shot at a Super Bowl, but this was an otherwise unforgettable tenure with the Vikes.
5. Charles Woodson To The Packers (2006)
As detailed by Woodson after he retired from the league, he was not excited to join the Green Bay Packers in 2006. In fact, he leaned towards retirement instead of suiting up with the team. A massive, seven-year, $52.7 million deal eventually convinced Woodson to come to Green Bay. It worked out for both sides, as Woodson stayed in Wisconsin for all seven years, recording at least seven INTs in four different seasons. Plus, the future Hall of Famer won his coveted Super Bowl ring in 2010.
4. Priest Holmes To The Chiefs (2001)
RB Priest Holmes lost his starting job with the Baltimore Ravens, and was forced to sign a small deal with the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s safe to say Holmes’ gamble paid off. From 2001-2003, Holmes was unquestionably the best back in the league. He rushed for over 1,400 yards each season, scoring a total of 61 TDs during that span. Holmes set an NFL record with 27 rushing TDs in the 2003 campaign. He finished his career with three All-Pro honors, each with the Chiefs.
3. Kurt Warner To The Cardinals (2005)
By the time the 2005 offseason rolled around, Kurt Warner was an afterthought. His Super Bowl-winning days with the St. Louis Rams were ancient history by that point. Warner voided the second year of his contract with the New York Giants, and landed with Arizona on a minimal, one-year, $4 million deal. Less than a year later, Warner received a huge pay raise. Three years after that, Warner led the Cardinals to their only Super Bowl appearance, nearly winning it all before Santonio Holmes spoiled the party. Warner had one of the greatest final seasons a QB has ever recorded, throwing for 3,753 yards, with 26 TDs and a 66.1 completion percentage.
2. Peyton Manning To The Broncos (2012)
Two years after LeBron James’ infamous ‘decision,’ it was the NFL’s turn to take center stage with a free agent signing. Peyton Manning was already on his way to Canton before he suffered a neck injury with the Indianapolis Colts. After missing an entire season, the Colts held the first-overall draft pick. They chose to release the 35-year-old QB. What unfolded was an unprecedented trip around the NFL for Manning, as several teams tried to recruit him. He landed with the Denver Broncos on a $96 million deal over five years. He would set the NFL record with 55 TD passes in the 2013 season, and win his second Lombardi Trophy during his final game in the league.
1. Drew Brees To The Saints (2006)
No player has meant more to his franchise and city in the 2000s than New Orleans’ Drew Brees. At the time, Brees was coming off a devastating shoulder injury, suffered with the Chargers. San Diego let Brees walk since his replacement, Phillip Rivers, was ready to become the starter. Brees led the city through the tragedy that was Hurricane Katrina. The QB won the franchise’s first Super Bowl, and came within inches of going back to the big game last season. And, oh by the way, while with the Saints, he set the NFL records for career completions and passing yards. Not bad for a 6-year, $60 million deal.