Pierce had just finished his breakout season with the Redskins before signing with Big Blue in 2005. In his first season with the Giants, he was named the team's defensive captain, notched 99 tackles, two interceptions and one forced fumble returned for a touchdown. Under Pierce's defensive leadership, the Giants pulled a stunning upset over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
2 of 25John Iacono/SI
Sean Jones, 1993
Though Reggie White, who signed with the Packers in 1993, generally snags the nod as the Packers' most pivotal free-agent signing of the mid-90's, linemate Sean Jones cannot be overlooked. He joined Favre and company in 1994 and immediately made an impact. His 24.5 sacks over three years helped lead the Packers to three straight playoffs and a Super Bowl Championship in 1996.
3 of 25John W. McDonough/SI
Donnie Edwards, 2002
He formed a tenacious linebacking tandem with fellow Pro Bowl selectee Junior Seau (before Seau departed in 2003). In his five seasons with the Chargers, Edwards averaged a whopping 146.6 tackles per year and helped the Chargers to an AFC West Championship in 2004.
4 of 25Drew Hallowell/Icon SMI
Jon Runyan, 2000
By signing Runyan in 2000, the Eagles got one of the most durable players in the NFL at a position where durability is key. Runyan started every one of the Eagles' 128 regular season games between 2000 and 2008, and in each of his first five seasons the team won over 11 games.
5 of 25John Biever/SI
Adam Vinatieri, 2006
Automatic Adam parted with the Patriots as the franchise's alltime leader in points and signed with Indy in 2006. He was instrumental in the Colts' Super Bowl run in 2007, finishing the postseason with an NFL record 49 points and 14 field goals (including three in the Super Bowl).
6 of 25Aaron Josefczyk/Icon SMI
Lorenzo Neal, 2003
The seasoned journeyman found a home with the Chargers in 2003, and LaDainian Tomlinson found a new buddy. The fullback's superior blocking paved the way for LT to rush for 1,000 yards in six straight seasons and an NFL record 29 touchdowns in 2006. Neal was honored with both Pro Bowl and First Team All-Pro selections in 2006 and 2007.
7 of 25Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Troy Vincent, 1996
The all-purpose cornerback/safety patrolled the backfield of one of the NFC's best defenses for eight seasons. He was both an impressive tackler and pass defender, accumulating a notable 28 interceptions and 519 tackles during his Eagles career -- enough to earn him five straight Pro Bowl selections from 1998 to 2003.
8 of 25Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Terrell Owens, 2006
Few free-agent acquisitions have stirred up more hubbub than the Cowboys' signing of T.O. But despite the media frenzy, T.O.'s contributions to the Cowboys have been unquestionable. In 2006 and 2007, he snagged 13 and 15 touchdown catches, respectively, while leading the Cowboys to consecutive playoff berths.
9 of 25John Iacono/SI
Marcus Allen, 1993
The signing brought together two future Hall of Famers who seemed to be nearing the end of their careers: Allen and Joe Montana. The two clicked in 1993 to lead Kansas City to the AFC Championship game for the first time in nearly two decades. Allen scored 15 touchdowns that season, enough to earn him a Pro Bowl selection, All-Pro selection and the NFL Comeback player of the Year award.
10 of 25John Iacono/SI
Stephen Davis, 2003
He didn't fit into Steve Spurrier's offense in Washington, but the burly running back was exactly what the Panthers needed in 2003. Davis ran for 1,444 yards and eight touchdowns to help Carolina reach Super Bowl XXXVIII, where it fell to New England.
11 of 25John Biever/SI
James Farrior, 2002
He signed with the Steelers in 2002 and immediately became an integral part of one of the decade's stingiest defenses and most successful franchises. In his first six seasons with Pittsburgh, Farrior had 658 tackles, 15.5 sacks, and earned a Super Bowl ring in 2005. He re-signed and returned in 2008 to post Pro Bowl-worthy numbers and help the Steelers to another Super Bowl Championship.
12 of 25Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Bryce Paup, 1995
He signed with the Bills for big money in 1995 and instantly delivered, leading the league with 17 1/2 sacks and winning the defensive MVP award. He was a Pro Bowl defensive end in all three of his seasons in Buffalo.
13 of 25Bill Frakes/SI
Sam Adams, 2000
The massive defensive tackle signed with the Ravens in 2000 and immediately helped them forge one of the greatest defenses in NFL history. With Adams taking up multiple blockers up front, the Ravens' linebackers and defensive backs had clean shots at the player with the ball. Adams helped Baltimore win Super Bowl XXXV and was named to the Pro Bowl in '00 and '01.
14 of 25AP
Michael McCrary, 1997
While Sam Adams and fellow DT Tony Siragusa tied up blockers on the inside, McCrary racked up the sacks. He signed with the Ravens in 1997 and quickly became the cornerstone of the line of the NFL's all-time greatest defense. He averaged 8.6 sacks per season over his six-year career, with 14.5 coming in 1998 -- the year he also earned his first Pro Bowl selection.
15 of 25Bob Rosato/SI
Michael Turner, 2008
When speedster Michael Turner finally broke away from LT's shadow in 2008 by signing with the Atlanta Falcons, there was little doubt he would put up big numbers. Turner ran for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2008 while carrying the Falcons to a surprising playoff berth.
16 of 25Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Plaxico Burress, 2005
Self-shooting or no self-shooting, it is impossible to discount the tremendous impact Burress had on the Giants after signing in 2005. In the first year of his six-year contract, he caught 76 passes for 1,214 yards and helped the team to first place in the NFC East. Two seasons later, he caught 70 passes for 1,025 yards en route to a historic Super Bowl victory over the previously undefeated Patriots.
17 of 25Peter Read Miller/SI
Rich Gannon, 1999
After being a part-time starter most of his career, Gannon immediately hit his stride when the Raiders signed him in 1999. A master of the dink-and-dunk passing game, Gannon made the Pro Bowl every season from 1999 to 2003, was named the 2002 MVP and helped Oakland reach Super Bowl XXXVII.
18 of 25Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Keenan McCardell, 1996
The Jags signed McCardell, who hadn't really blossomed after four years in Cleveland, for $6 million over three years in 1996. McCardell went on to join Jimmy Smith as part of the most consistent receiving duo of the late '90s and first part of this decade. A solid possession receiver, McCardell caught 85 balls or more in four of his six years in Jacksonville.
19 of 25Damian Strohmeyer/SI
Mike Vrabel, 2001
He flirted with the idea of retirement at the end of his four years in Pittsburgh, but signed instead with the New England Patriots in 2001. Vrabel is a perfect fit in Bill Belichick's system, registering 604 tackles, 48 sacks and 10 touchdown catches in his first 8 years with the franchise. The versatile four-year defensive captain earned both Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods in 2007 to go along with his three Super Bowl rings.
20 of 25Bill Frakes/SI
Priest Holmes, 2001
The Chiefs signed Holmes away from the Ravens in 2001 for a very inexpensive contract, considering the star running back's lofty achievements in K.C. In 2002 and 2003, Holmes ran for a combined 48 touchdowns and was the most dominant running back in the game.
21 of 25Peter Read Miller/SI
Kurt Warner, 2005
In 2005, the Arizona Cardinals signed the veteran quarterback to a one-year, $4 million deal that would eventually turn into a four-year stint. Despite having to consistently battle for the starting job, Warner helped turn the Cardinals' 2005 offense into the league's No. 1 ranked passing attack, and in 2008 led the team to the first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. He threw for a gaudy 4,583 passing yards and 30 touchdowns last season.
22 of 25V.J. Lovero/SI, Brad Mangin/SI
Deion Sanders, 1994/1995
After one of his longer stints in baseball, Sanders signed with the 49ers in 1994, became the NFL Defensive Player of the Year and helped San Francisco win Super Bowl XXIX. The following season the talented cornerback and return man signed with the Cowboys and helped them win Super Bowl XXX. Later in his career, Sanders was a disappointment in Washington and Baltimore, but his achievements in Dallas and San Francisco speak for themselves.
23 of 25Bob Rosato/SI
Drew Brees, 2006
The Saints went after Brees despite a shoulder injury he had suffered at the end of the previous season. Brees threw 26 touchdowns and just 11 picks in 2006 and led New Orleans to the NFC Championship Game.
24 of 25Al Tielemans/SI
Curtis Martin, 1998
He was a restricted free agent when the Jets signed him in 1998, so they had to give up a first- and third-round pick to the Patriots. At the time, coach Bill Parcells said there was no player he could pick at No. 18 in the first round that would match Martin, and he was right. Martin rushed for over 1,000 yards every year from 1998 through 2004.
25 of 25Bill Frakes/SI, Heinz Kluetmeier/SI
Reggie White, 1993
The Packers signed White for $17 million over four years in 1993 -- one of the three highest salaries in the NFL at the time. And the Minister of Defense delivered, transforming the defense and becoming the leader of a team that would win Super Bowl XXXI in 1997.
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