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New York Giants: The Biggest Successes in Free-Agent History for Big Blue

Doug RushSenior Analyst IMarch 15, 2013

New York Giants: The Biggest Successes in Free-Agent History for Big Blue

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    When free agency started on Tuesday, it was hot and heavy.

    Names were flying left and right off the market, landing lucrative deals with different teams.

    The New York Giants have been somewhat active but not like other teams.

    Thus far, they have landed Cullen Jenkins, Aaron Ross and Josh Brown while losing Martellus Bennett and Kenny Phillips.

    The moves the Giants make are usually calculated ones, because they are known as a team that builds through the draft and signs undrafted players.

    However, they have had a lot of success stories in their history with players who have joined the Giants to perform up to expectations.

    This past week, we did the Biggest Busts in Free Agency for the Giants.

    Now, we will do the flip side of that—the success stories.

15. Kurt Warner

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    Signed on June 4, 2004; two years, $9.5 million

    OK, this is where some of you might think I am nuts for putting Kurt Warner on here.

    Yes, he played for the Giants for only one season and was a starter for nine games. I know that.

    Warner gets on here for being such an influential force on the guy he was brought in to mentor: Eli Manning.

    The Giants traded for Manning on the day of the 2004 NFL Draft, but weren't sure if he would be ready to step in and be the guy.

    So, the Giants got the former league and Super Bowl MVP to start the season as the starter and also be a mentor to the younger Manning.

    When you look at Warner's 2004 season, he held his own with the team, throwing for 2,054 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions. He was 5-4 as the starter.

    After losing two straight, Tom Coughlin decided to pull Warner as the starter and went with the rookie Manning, and that's where Warner's role as mentor came in.

    And even though Warner couldn't have been thrilled about it, he still helped the rookie through his growing pains of his first season.

    After 2004, Warner left the Giants, and Manning was ready to take the reins of the team.

    Since then, Manning is 77-51 in the regular season and 8-3 in the playoffs with two Super Bowl championships and two Super Bowl MVP Awards.

    I think the Giants knew what they were doing by bringing in Warner to help Manning back in 2004, and it paid off.

14. Kawika Mitchell

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    Signed on March 27, 2007; one year, $1 million

    I was really upset when the Giants let Kawika Mitchell walk after 2007.

    But when he first signed before 2007, I wasn't sure how he was going to fit in with the team.

    Mitchell was one of the first signings under Jerry Reese's tenure and was taking the spot of recently released LaVar Arrington.

    Before he joined the Giants, Mitchell had spent four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs.

    With the Giants, Mitchell had 76 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and an interception.

    Mitchell brought positive energy and leadership to the Giants linebacker unit in 2007 that won Super Bowl XLII.

    After winning the Super Bowl with the Giants, Mitchell landed a five-year, $17.5 million deal with the Buffalo Bills, but he only played two years there.

    Looks like he should have stayed with the Giants, where he had proven success.

13. Sam Madison

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    Signed on March 10, 2006; four years, $7.4 million

    Before coming to the Giants, Sam Madison was already an established corner with the Miami Dolphins.

    Because Will Allen had fallen out of favor with the Giants, they decided to bring in the nine-year veteran on a four-year deal to provide experience and mentoring to the young secondary.

    Madison did just that, and 2007 was by far his best season with the team.

    Playing in all 16 games, Madison had 67 total tackles, four interceptions, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and a sack.

    Madison also provided guidance to guys like Corey Webster, Kenny Phillips, Gibril Wilson and Michael Johnson.

    Super Bowl XLII was the first championship that Madison won in his 12-year career.

    Madison played one more season with the Giants in 2008 before retiring from the NFL.

12. Lomas Brown

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    Signed on February 23, 2000; three years, $5.8 million

    Heading into the 2000 season, one of the areas Ernie Accorsi wanted to address in the offseason was the offensive line.

    The unit was struggling, so the Giants GM made a huge overhaul and brought in a longtime veteran to start at left tackle.

    Lomas Brown was well-known in the NFL, playing with the Detroit Loins, Arizona Cardinals and Cleveland Browns before coming over to the Giants in 2000.

    The 37-year-old Brown played a major role in the Giants offensive line, and younger guys like Ron Stone and Luke Petitgout looked to him for veteran leadership.

    One thing that Brown did struggle with was a nagging back, but because of Brown's drive to play, it didn't keep him out of games.

    With Brown, the Giants won the NFC Championship but lost Super Bowl XXXV to the Ravens.

    Brown played two seasons with the Giants, was released after 2001 and was a member of the Super Bowl XXXVIII-winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002 before retiring after 18 years in the NFL.

11. Glenn Parker

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    Signed on March 24, 2000; seven years, $6.2 million

    The Giants added more experience to their offensive line in 2000 by adding longtime guard Glenn Parker to the left side of the line.

    Parker was the third addition the Giants made that season, as they got Lomas Brown for the left tackle spot and Dusty Zeigler to play center.

    Parker had already been with a proven winner with the Buffalo Bills, playing in four straight Super Bowls to start out his career.

    With the Giants, he was hoping to win his first one of his career after the Bills lost all four times they were in the big game.

    Parker was part of a line that paved the way for Tiki Barber and Ron Dayne to gain more than 1,700 yards on the ground.

    Unfortunately for Parker, the Giants lost Super Bowl XXXV to the Ravens, and Parker went 0-5 in Super Bowl games.

    Parker played one more season in the NFL and retired after 2001.

10. Madison Hedgecock

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    Signed on September 13, 2007; five years, $5.5 million

    Many Giants fans all over would like to thank Scott Linehan for screwing this one up.

    Madison Hedgecock was released by the St. Louis Rams and Linehan, and the Giants quickly swooped in to sign Hedgecock after Jim Finn suffered a severe injury.

    With the Giants, Hedgecock paved the way for four running backs to gain more than 2,000 yards in 2007: Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, Reuben Droughns and Ahmad Bradshaw.

    In 2008, Hedgecock paved the way for Jacobs, Ward and Bradshaw to rush for more than 2,400, which was the best running attack in the NFL. Jacobs and Ward each had more than 1,000 yards.

    Hedgecock didn't carry the ball much in his career, but he did catch a few touchdown passes from Eli Manning.

    His blocking and ability to open up holes are what made him so valuable to the team.

    He played for the Giants until 2010, when he landed on IR with a hamstring injury.

    He had to retire from the NFL in 2011 after failing a physical, which led to his release from the team due to a back injury.

9. Micheal Barrow

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    Signed on March 3, 2000; six years, $24 million

    Ernie Accorsi wasn't messing around in 2000 when he wanted to build a championship contender.

    Accorsi landed 29-year-old Micheal Barrow from the Carolina Panthers and signed him to a six-year deal.

    Barrow would be placed alongside beloved outside linebacker Jesse Armstead to form a solid 1-2 punch in the unit.

    In his first season with the Giants, Barrow had 94 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and an interception.

    Barrow had 145 tackles with six sacks in 2001 and had 150 tackles with two sacks and three forced fumbles in 2003.

    Barrow was also a part of the Giants team that lost in the Super Bowl in 2000.

    He was released in 2004 and retired from the NFL in 2005.

8. Antrel Rolle

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    Signed on March 6, 2010; five years, $37 million

    The Giants were in the hunt for a big-time, play-making free safety.

    On the very first day of free agency in 2010, the Giants immediately landed Antrel Rolle from the Cardinals and signed him to a five-year deal.

    That deal made him one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL, so it came with a lot of expectations.

    It took Rolle awhile to get used to playing under Tom Coughlin, but Rolle has become a solid presence in the Giants secondary.

    In 2011, Rolle had 100 total tackles with two interceptions and one forced fumble, which I feel was his best season with the team.

    During the 2011 playoffs, Rolle stepped up his game and was part of a defense that got better as the year wore on and won Super Bowl XLVI over the Patriots.

7. Steve Weatherford

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    Signed on July 29, 2011; one year, $1 million

    How many Giant fans screamed for Matt Dodge's release following the Philadelphia Eagles disaster in 2010?

    I'll admit I was one of them, and I was shocked that Dodge still had a job for the final two games that season.

    That botched punt to DeSean Jackson lingered in the mind of Jerry Reese, because after the lockout ended that summer, Reese brought in former New York Jets punter Steve Weatherford on a one-year deal to compete with Dodge for the punting job.

    Some fans thought Weatherford might push Dodge for the job to make him better, but not me. I felt Weatherford was there to take the job, which he did to rid the team of Dodge.

    Over the last two years, Weatherford has been an extremely accurate punter and has been able to pin the ball with precision inside the opponent's 20- and 10-yard line.

    After 2011 when the Giants won Super Bowl XLVI, they used the franchise tag on Weatherford but signed him to a five-year, $12.75 million on March 16, 2012.

    Giants fans all over would like to thank former Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff for screwing up in thinking Weatherford wasn't worth keeping around.

6. Kerry Collins

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    Signed on February 20, 1999; four years, $16.9 million

    Giants GM Ernie Accorsi was really gambling when he made this move.

    Before this signing, he had struggled to find a consistent quarterback since Phil Simms retired.

    Dave Brown was awful, then came Danny Kanell, who was mediocre at best and then Kent Graham took over and was named the starter for 1999.

    However, Kerry Collins got signed to a four-year deal with the chance to eventually take over and win the starting job from Graham, which he did in the middle of the season.

    Before the Giants, Collins had a problem with alcohol and was even arrested for a DUI while with the Panthers and got released.

    In 2000, Collins was the full-time starter and had a good season with the Giants, throwing for 3,610 yards, 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

    In the 2000 NFC Championship Game, Collins had by far the best game of his career by throwing for five touchdown passes en route to a 41-0 blowout over the Minnesota Vikings.

    Collins played for the Giants for three more seasons, got them to the playoffs again in 2002 as a wild card and was released after the 2003 season.

    If Collins had won Super Bowl XXXV with the Giants, he would have been a lot higher on this list.

5. Antonio Pierce

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    Signed on March 3, 2005; six years, $26 million

    The Giants wanted to get stronger at the middle linebacker spot and were looking for the leadership that the team had lost after Micheal Barrow left in 2003.

    So the Giants lured away Antonio Pierce from the Washington Redskins, signing him to a six-year deal and providing an opportunity to play against his former team twice.

    Pierce immediately made a difference on the Giants defense with his passion, drive and sense for finding the football.

    In his first season with the team, Pierce had 100 total tackles with 2.5 sacks and two interceptions.

    In 2006, Pierce had a career-high 139 total tackles with a sack and interception.

    In 2007, he was one of the key leaders on the defense that helped the Giants win Super Bowl XLII over the Patriots.

    By 2009, Pierce had become injury prone and looked a step off, appearing a little sluggish on the field. He was released in February of 2010.

    In the five years with the team, Pierce made the most of his career with the Giants.

4. Kareem McKenzie

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    Signed on March 3, 2005; seven years, $37.75 million

    It's not every day that a football player gets to finish out his contract, especially in today's NFL due to the salary cap.

    When the Giants brought over Kareem McKenzie from the Jets back in 2005, they got their money's worth.

    McKenzie was part of the crop of free agents the Giants brought in before the 2005 season to make the team a contender in the NFC East after a disappointing 6-10 finish a year prior.

    McKenzie played alongside right guard Chris Snee and formed a dominating right side of the offensive line that became one of the league's best, especially in the 2007 season when the Giants won Super Bowl XLII.

    In McKenzie's final season with the team, the Giants won Super Bowl XLVI in 2011.

    From start to finish with the Giants, McKenzie remained the Giants' starting right tackle on the offensive line until his departure after 2011.

3. Jeff Feagles

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    Signed on April 6, 2003; four years, $3.2 million

    When Jeff Feagles came to the Giants in 2003, he was already an established punter in the NFL.

    The 37-year-old Feagles had been in the NFL for 15 seasons and spent time with the New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.

    Feagles replaced the departed Rodney Williams, and it's a move the Giants never regretted, as Feagles made punting into an art form.

    If the team needed a long punt, Feagles could kick it deep. If the team needed a punt inside the 20, he could put it there.

    And if the team needed a punt inside the 10- or 5-yard line, Feagles knew exactly how to kick it and where to place it.

    Feagles was able to serve as the Giants punter until the 2009 season, playing 22 years in the NFL.

    In the following season, Matt Dodge made Giants fans miss Feagles that much more in retirement, especially after the Eagles disaster in December 2010.

2. Shaun O'Hara

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    Signed on March 7, 2004; three years, $5.4 million

    The Giants needed a center to replace the departed Chris Bober, who went on to play with the Kansas City Chiefs.

    Little did the Giants know what they were getting when they lured Shaun O'Hara over from the Cleveland Browns as a pure leader and absolute tough-as-nails lineman.

    For O'Hara, coming to the Giants made sense, as he got a chance to return to New Jersey, where he played at Rutgers.

    O'Hara solidified one of the best offensive in the NFL that included him, David Diehl, Rich Seubert, Chris Snee and Kareem McKenzie.

    Together, they paved the way for a Giants running attack that would be near the top of the NFL. They protected Eli Manning and eventually helped win Super Bowl XLII.

    Before 2007, O'Hara would re-sign with the Giants on a five-year, $19 million deal to keep him in New York.

    He would continue playing for the Giants until 2010 and was named to three straight Pro Bowls (2008-2010).

    In the summer of 2011, O'Hara was released from the team and officially announced his retirement from the NFL in September 2012.

1. Plaxico Burress

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    Signed on March 17, 2005; six years, $25 million

    Almost five years to the day, Joe Buck's words are still engraved into my head.

    "Manning, lobs it. Burress, alone. Touchdown New York!"

    When the Giants brought Plaxico Burress over from the Pittsburgh Steelers and finally gave Eli Manning a big-time target to throw to, there was a lot of excitement with this deal.

    It was the first time the Giants had spent big money to lure a No. 1 receiver to the team.

    In his first season with the team, Burress caught 76 passes for 1,214 yards and seven touchdowns.

    In 2007, Burress caught 70 passes for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns.

    His greatest catch was in Super Bowl XLII, when he beat Ellis Hobbs on a slant-and-go route. Manning threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Burress with 35 seconds left that put the Giants ahead for good.

    Before 2008, Burress had agreed to a five-year extension for $35 million with the team, but then the nightclub incident happened in November 2008.

    Burress shot himself in the leg, an injury that ended his season after the Giants suspended him for the remainder of 2008.

    Burress was in jail from September 2009 until June 2011 for criminal possession of a weapon and reckless endangerment.

    After his release from prison, the Giants attempted to re-sign Burress, but he instead chose to sign with the Jets for more money.

    Despite the incident, the Giants would have never won Super Bowl XLII without Burress, and he will forever be a part of Giants history with a game-winning catch.

    To this date, he is the best free-agent signing in Giants history.

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