It’s that time of the year when the NFL’s free agency period begins. Each NFL franchise will soon be scouring the open market, vying for the player’s services which can best help to improve the team and eventually propel them to raising the coveted Lombardi Trophy.
Here’s a look at some notable Hall of Famers and how they fared after being signed as free agents away from the franchise that originally drafted them.
– Martin started his career with the New England Patriots and Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells
in 1995. There the running back took the league by storm, rushing for three straight 1,000-yards seasons. In 1998, the two were reunited when Martin (a restricted free agent at the time) was signed by the New York Jets to a complex offer sheet. Parcells would give up a first and a third round draft pick for the right to sign the running back. Martin was worth it and continued his dominant running with seven consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns. In 2004, Martin was the league’s leading ground-gainer (1,697). Martin’s eight-year total with the Jets – 10,302 rushing yards and 58 touchdowns, 367 receptions for 2,439 yards and five touchdowns helped him retire as the NFL’s fourth all-time leading rusher.
– After 16 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers (1985-2000), Rice headed across the Bay to join the Oakland Raiders in 2001. Even though Rice was in what some would consider the twilight of his career, he provided a huge boost to the Raiders offense. Rice helped lead the team to an AFC West Division title in his first year in Oakland. The next season, he led the team in receptions while helping deliver another division title and an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII. During his three seasons with Oakland, Rice hauled in 238 catches for 3,219 yards and 18 touchdowns.
– Originally drafted by the Atlanta Falcons in 1989, Sanders played with four other teams during his career. His most notable free agent stints included the San Francisco 49ers (1994) and the Dallas Cowboys (1995-99) where he helped both teams win Super Bowls. He was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 1994 after he returned six picks for a career-high 303 yards (third-best at the time of his retirement) and three TDs. Sanders’ TDs in ‘94 (74, 93, 90 yards) made him the first player to score on two 90-yard returns in the same season. Sanders retired second all-time in interception yardage (1,331) and tied for the second most interceptions touchdowns in a career (9) and season (3).
– Sharpe found All-Pro success while playing with Hall of Fame thrower John Elway
in Denver (1990-99). But after 10 seasons with the Broncos, the tight end was signed by the Baltimore Ravens. Sharpe played an integral part in helping the franchise win Super Bowl XXXV. Sharpe’s 96-yard touchdown reception in the 2000 AFC Championship Game remains the longest TD catch in NFL playoff history. Sharpe recorded 140 passes for 1,621 yards and seven touchdowns in two seasons with the team.
- White was without a doubt one of the most coveted free agents of all time. The defensive end spent eight years with the Philadelphia Eagles (1986-92) where he built up a Hall of Fame resume. After a wild period of teams campaigning for White to join their team, the “Minister of Defense” was successfully wooed by Green Bay Packers GM and Class of 2015 Enshrinee Ron Wolf
. With White leading the team’s defenses, the Packers won the NFL Central Division title in 1995 (the team’s first division title in 23 seasons). The next year White and the Pack, which boasted the NFL’s top ranked defense, won the Vince Lombardi Trophy for the first time since 1967.
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– Woodson signed with the Baltimore Ravens after 10 seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1897-1996) and one with the San Francisco 49ers (1997). The cornerback/safety picked off 20 passes and scored five times during his four-year stint in Baltimore and was a major factor in the team’s Super Bowl XXXV victory. He later signed with the Raiders (2002-03) and tied his season-high in interceptions (8) in 2002. Woodson’s play that season was a key element in the team’s appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII.
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