I was glass half empty yesterday, so we'll go glass half full today. Here are my top 15 free agent signings in team history. There was just too many good ones to stop at 10. Free agency started technically in 1989 with "Plan B" but it wasn't till '92-'93 that the full blown free agency the way we know it today existed. That said, the Saints did sign some guys prior to '89 out of the USFL (a lesser, competing league at the time), so that's why you'll notice a couple guys before 1989 on this list.
15. Scott Fujita, LB, 2006: Right now I have Jabari Greer at 16 and the last cut, but I want to at least mention him because he's probably one decent year away from passing Fujita on this list. Fujita was part of the original Sean Payton team that changed the franchise forever, though. He was an unquestioned starter for four years and a vocal locker room leader. He was a member of the 2009 Super Bowl champion team.
14. Fred McAfee, ST, 2000: The Saints actually drafted McAfee but after a solid stint with the Steelers he would come back years later. McAfee would finish his last seven years of his career in New Orleans, including a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2002.
13. Norman Hand, DT, 2000: Nicknamed "Big Wiggle", Hand was a really entertaining player and a fun loving guy in the locker room. For his size he was extremely quick and scary to block on the field. He was dominant against the run in three seasons with the Saints and also had 9 sacks in 3 years which is high for a guy his size. He did struggle with weight, though, consistently well over 300 pounds. He was incredibly disruptive, though, and a very good player for a short amount of time.
12. Jim Everett, QB, 1994: After being borderline elite with the Rams for a while, Everett had a disaster season in 1993 before coming to the Saints which led most people to believe he was finished. He resurrected his career nicely with the Saints, though, throwing for almost 4,000 yards in back to back seasons. His third year threw him back in a slump, though, and finished his stint as a Saint. He had 60 TD's and 48 Int's during his time in black and gold, but his first two seasons were quite good.
11. Quinn Early, WR, 1991: The Saints landed Early in "Plan B" free agency and he ended up being a real pleasant surprise. After having three decent seasons with the Saints, he exploded with an 82 catch 894 yard and 4 touchdown season followed by a 81 catch 1,087 yard and 8 touchdown one. He had five productive years with the team and is remembered as one of the best receivers in team history.
10. Michael Lewis, KR, 2001: Commonly known as "Beerman", Lewis showed up out of nowhere to try out of the Saints after being a beer truck driver. While he was tiny in size, the Saints decided to keep him due to his unbelievable speed. Lewis made his mark as a returner, where he made the Pro Bowl in 2002 and had 4 returns for touchdowns in his 6 year career with the Saints.
9. Jerry Fontenot, C, 1997: After 8 very good seasons with the Bears, most people thought Fontenot was in the twilight of his career when the Saints picked him up. Instead, he gave the Saints 7 more seasons of starting at center and playing at an extremely high level. No one ever expected him to last that long or play that well, but he was a true leader and a great pick up.
8. Darren Sproles, RB, 2011: He's only been with the Saints two full seasons so far but what a fantastic pick up he's been. He's already broken the NFL record for total yards in a season.
7. John Carney, K, 2001: Carney kicked for the Saints for 7 years from 2001 to 2006 and then again from 2009 to 2010. He is second all time in team history in scoring behind Morten Andersen. He had an 82.8% career success rate on field goals as a kicker for the Saints which is almost unimaginable.
6. Bobby Hebert, QB, 1985: Like Mills he joined the Saints via the USFL and he's known as one of the better quarterbacks in team history. To me he's a definite top 5, the only damaging part being his 0-3 playoff record. In 7 years with the Saints he threw for 85 touchdowns and 75 interceptions. He led the Saints to their first winning season, first playoff berth, and as a local he was nicknamed the "Cajun Cannon".
5. La'Roi Glover, DT, 1997 (pictured): Glover was a nobody and viewed as an undersized tackle that couldn't cut it when Mike Ditka plucked him from the Raiders. In five seasons with the Saints he had 50 sacks, including 17 in 2006 which made him the NFC defensive player of the year. He made the Pro Bowl twice with the Saints and would go on to make it four more times in his career.
4. Darren Sharper, S, 2009: This pickup is in large part why the Saints were able to win the Super Bowl. Sharper would only play two seasons before retiring but despite a low investment he had 9 interceptions and 3 touchdowns in one season. He made the Pro Bowl and got votes for NFL defensive player of the year.
3. Sam Mills, LB, 1986: The Saints signed Mills out of the USFL when he left the league to join his coach Jim Mora Sr. to the NFL. He'd make four Pro Bowls in nine seasons as a superstar linebacker for the team.
2. Joe Horn, WR, 2000: Horn was nothing more than a backup role playing receiver with the Chiefs before coming over to New Orleans. Out of nowhere he exploded on to the scene and became the best receiver in team history. In 7 seasons with the Saints he had 523 receptions, 7622 yards, 50 touchdowns, four 1,000 yard seasons and four trips to the Pro Bowl.
1. Drew Brees, QB, 2006: Not only the best free agent signing in team history, but the best free agent signing in NFL history. His 6 year $60 million contract turned out to be a gross underpayment for his services. Need I explain this further? No, I don't.
Any thoughts on this list? Did I miss anyone?
Sharper shouldn't have been any lower than #3!
I don't understand how Joe Horn got to #2; he was a good/decent WR for the Saints, but IMO rating Horn as the #2 FA player in Saints history is a bit of a stretch.
I thought for sure Sharper would have been #2. Sure he was not himself after 2009 and an injury, but he was that one player you need to plan for that the Saints miss so enormously this season. He had his best year ever and a record setting year in 2009. I am sure that without him the Superbowl would not have been won. What if Manning had thrown the ball down the field instead of into the hands of Porter, only because there was some lesser guy in the backfield, lesser then Sharper. Any free agent who was so instrumental in the Saints winning the Superbowl must be much higher. How good the rest might have been, they were not able to get the Saints a Superbowl victory and nothing can beat a Superbowl victory!
Also, in the top 20 list of free agent signings of all time, done by the NFL sharper is the 2nd Saint (behind Brees at #2) at #18.
You talk about Greer needing one more year of service to make the list, then include a handful of players on the list who played fewer years for the Saints than Greer. Hand, Early, Chris, for example.
I do appreciate the Fontenot shoutout. He was a great Ditka acquisition.
@SaintsWillWIn Wow. What FA would you rank higher than Joe? I think #2 is just right for him. He's easily the best FA WR Saints have EVER had.
@MarijnPessers yeah I disagree with that list. Sharper made a huge impact on half a season - maybe the biggest impact ever, but Horn made 4 Pro Bowls as a Saint. The long term impact he made, and ditto Mills, is much more than what Sharper gave. If you want to measure team success and attribute that to Sharper, then I guess every free agent in 2009 should be 1 through 10 right? The Saints got maybe 10 elite games out of Sharper. They got at least 5 elite seasons out of Horn. There is no comparison in my opinion. I'm not knocking Sharper. What he did in 2009 was legendary and it was a massive pick up. But there is no way I rate it ahead of Mills or Horn. Those guys have 8 Pro Bowls combined.
@DansHat Greer has been good, but he's never had a major impact season IMO. Chris had two, Hand was steadily very good each year, and Early had two monster seasons. It's not just longevity. After a while if a player sticks around and is good enough, like Fontenot, he belongs. Greer is close. But I picked those three over Jabari because I just felt they had bigger seasons at their position
I agree that Horn is arguably the best FA WR the Saints have signed so far.
But I don't consider him to be the 2nd best out of the list that was presented.
Sharper without question should have been #2, I would put Sam Mills #3.
IMO, Horn should have been around 5/6 on the list.
@SaintsNation yeah, the minute I hit post, I had pretty much the same thought...I also enjoyed looking up the Saints centers - they had both Hilgy bros. and Fontenot in the 90s at that position. Interesting!
Once agan,I a not knocking Horn and am not saying he shouldn't be on the list.
However, I would rather have one Super Bowl victory than a team roster that has 100 Pro Bowl appearances. between them
I look at it this way, if a lesser player than Sharper had been playing in Super Bowl 44, than the possibility exists that instead of trying to throw to Reggie Wayne, Manning throws a TD to a different WR instead of a pick 6!
@SaintsWillWIn I dunno man, Horn made 4 Pro Bowls as a Saint. Sharper barely played a year and a half. Sharper meant a lot to the Super Bowl season, no doubt, but honestly it was the first half of that season he exploded, and his balky knee made him fade down the stretch. Sharper didn't do that much in the playoffs. Horn and Mills is a wash to me. Both were great. I don't see how Sharper is #2. He played a half season that was MVP worthy, and that is it.