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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. 

6. CB Deion Sanders, 49ers (1994) 

After losing consecutive NFC title games to the Cowboys, the 49ers responded by signing the perennial All-Pro Sanders. The 49ers also signed linebacker Ken Norton Jr., who had just helped the Cowboys win back-to-back Super Bowls. Sanders enjoyed his best season as a pro in 1994, returning three of his six interceptions for touchdowns en route to winning Defensive Player of the Year. 

Sanders' coverage of Michael Irvin played a pivotal role in the 49ers' NFC title game win over the Cowboys. Two weeks later, the 49ers defeated the Chargers to become the first franchise to win five Super Bowls.  

5. QB Tom Brady, Buccaneers (2020) 

After an unbelievable run in New England, Brady signed a two-year deal with the Buccaneers in March 2020. During his first year in Tampa, Brady led the Buccaneers to their second Super Bowl win. 

Against the defending champion Chiefs, Brady won his fifth Super Bowl MVP award after throwing three touchdowns in Tampa Bay's 31-9 victory. At age 44, Brady led the NFL in passing yards and passing touchdowns. Brady retired after leading the Buccaneers to a third consecutive playoff apperance in 2022. 

4. QB Kurt Warner, Rams (1998) 

Warner spent the 1998 season in NFL Europe before he was elevated to the Rams' backup quarterback entering the 1999 season. He became the Rams' starting quarterback when Trent Green suffered a season-ending injury during the preseason. 

Warner quickly rose to stardom; he won league MVP that season after throwing 41 touchdowns and leading the Rams to a 13-3 record. He won Super Bowl MVP after leading the Rams to a win over the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. Warner won his second MVP in 2001 after leading the NFL in passing yards and touchdown passes. Warner's Rams fell just short of winning a second Super Bowl in three years. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017. 

3. QB Drew Brees, Saints (2006) 

Brees spent his first five NFL seasons in San Diego, where he led the Chargers to a division title in 2004. But a year later, Brees was deemed expendable by the Chargers after the team spent a first-round pick on Philip Rivers. In free agency, Brees chose the Saints instead of the Dolphins

That decision turned out to be a good one, as Brees led the Saints to a division title during his first season in New Orleans. Three years later, Brees earned Super Bowl MVP honors after leading New Orleans to a 31-17 win over the Colts. Brees continued to have success over the next decade in New Orleans, where he became the NFL's first player to reach 80,000 career passing yards. 

2. QB Peyton Manning, Broncos (2012)

Manning led the Broncos to four division titles, two AFC titles and a Super Bowl victory during his four years in Denver. Individually, Manning was selected to three Pro Bowls, earned two All-Pro nods, was named Comeback Player of the Year and league MVP. In 2013, Manning threw for an NFL-record 54 touchdown passes. 

Manning retired after the 2015 season as the NFL's all-time leader in passing yards. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021. 

1. DE Reggie White, Packers (1993) 

White became the first marquee free agent to sign with a new team during the NFL's first free agency season. White, who had already put together a Hall of Fame career with the Eagles, tallied 68.5 sacks and six Pro Bowl selections during his six seasons in Green Bay. 

White played an integral role in the Packers' rise to prominence in the mid-to-late 1990s. His three sacks helped the Packers defeat the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI, thus ending Green Bay's 29-year title drought.