Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The great one would have made this list had he reached free agency in his prime
Several players could have made strong arguments for placement on this list but for a variety of reasons could not crack the top 10. Here are a few guys who deserve to be noted as honorable mentions:
Wayne Gretzky: The greatest hockey player ever was a free agent only once in his career, in 1996 when he joined former teammate Mark Messier with the New York Rangers. Though he brought a lot of publicity to New York, Gretzky was well past his prime and therefore couldn't seriously be considered for this list.
Michael Jordan: Like Gretzky, Jordan reached free agency a bit too late in his career to make the cut. In 1996, Jordan was only seriously pursued by the Knicks, but as we all know he ultimately returned to Chicago to win two more titles. If this had happened in 1992, Jordan makes the cut, but not in '96.
Randy Johnson: Though Johnson might have been the best free-agent signing ever, his free agency didn't cause the stir of the other guys on this list, so despite winning the Cy Young Award in all four years of his free-agent deal with Arizona, Johnson is left off off this list.
Dwyane Wade: Wade's free agency in 2010 garnered interest from New York, New Jersey, Chicago and even Dallas, but realistically we all knew that Wade wouldn't leave the Heat, so he was not considered for this list.
Drew Brees: Like Johnson, the effect he had on his team is impossible to deny. He led New Orleans to its first super bowl and is hailed as a local hero. But this list isn't about what they did once they signed the contract, it's about the magnitude of their free agency before it. Brees was only seriously chased by the Saints and Miami Dolphins, making it impossible to put him on this list.
Reggie Jackson: The hardest person to keep off the list, Jackson led the Yankees to the World Series title in 1977 as their high-priced free-agent acquisition. The market structure of baseball combined with its lack of a salary cap gives way to too many star free agents changing teams, which in the end led to Jackson being kept off of the list in favor of a few higher-profile players.