5 Best Free Agent Signings in New York Jets History

John Shea@real_johnsheaContributor IIIJanuary 23, 2014

5 Best Free Agent Signings in New York Jets History

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    The New York Jets are bound to become extensively active in free agency this offseason. General manager John Idzik remained distant during the signing period last spring, opting to fix the books as opposed to further burying the Jets into salary cap catastrophe.

    The Jets aren't renowned for constructing championship-caliber teams through the competitive stratosphere of free agent negotiations. But former front office executives, like failed GM Mike Tannenbaum, developed reputations for making outlandish gambles on big-name players, namely future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre.

    A majority of the big-time players the Jets have acquired in free agency weren't thought to be perennial difference-makers when they changed uniforms, though. In fact, a couple of the best player acquisitions in team history were undrafted free agents.

    The following slideshow highlights the five best free agent signings in Jets' history:

5. Vinny Testaverde (QB)

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    Vinny Testaverde bounced around between three teams before reaching an agreement to play with the Jets prior to the 1998 season.

    The former No. 1 overall pick flourished under Hall of Fame head coach Bill Parcells in his first season in New York, leading the Jets to a 12-4 record, the best 16-game mark in franchise history.

    The Jets' new-found signal-caller was spectacular in '98, throwing for 3,256 yards with 29 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. He led the Jets to their first conference title game appearance since 1982.

    New York averaged 26.0 points per game in '98 and scored the most points in a season (416) since the 1968 Super Bowl-Champion Jets.

    Testaverde is one of the best free agent signings in Jets' history because he brought the Green & White back to respectability for the first time in over a decade.

    Testaverde registered a 35-26 record in two stints over seven seasons with the Jets. He also led the Jets to two playoff appearances and 14 fourth quarter comebacks.

4. Victor Green (S)

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    At 5'11'' and 210 pounds, Victor Green was considered undersized at his position, but the undrafted strong safety proved doubters wrong after signing a deal with the Jets in 1993.

    Green played nine seasons in New York, developing a stout reputation as an outstanding open-field tackler. Green averaged roughly 85 tackles in seven full seasons as a starter in the Jets secondary. He also recorded 24 interceptions, running two back for scores.

    Green never missed a game between 1994 to 2001, a stretch which included a string of 96 consecutive starts.

    He's one of the best free agent signings in Jets' history because he solidified the secondary by playing lights-out defense for nearly a decade.

    Green was awarded honors by being named to the Jets' four-decade team in 2003. He officially retired as a Jet in 2006.

3. Wayne Chrebet (WR)

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    Wayne Chrebet played his entire 11-year career with the Jets, registering 580 catches, 7,365 receiving yards and 41 touchdowns.

    Chrebet was an undrafted free agent out of Hofstra, where he set the single season (16) and career touchdown (31) records. He refused to give up his dream of becoming an NFL player after not being drafted in 1995.

    Chrebet earned a walk-on opportunity with the Jets prior to the '95 season. He was slotted as the last man on a depth chart that features 10 other receivers. Chrebet impressed Rich Kotite's coaching staff, though, earning a roster spot.

    Chrebet didn't disappoint in his rookie season, catching 66 passes for 726 yards and four touchdowns. His career skyrocketed from there, as he became known as one of the most dependable third down receiving targets in the NFL.

    No. 80 ranks third all-time in receptions among players who were not drafted. His famed number hasn't been worn by a member of the Green & White since he officially retired in 2005.

    Chrebet is unequivocally one of the best free agent signings in the history of the Jets franchise.

2. Kevin Mawae (C)

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    Kevin Mawae became one of the best centers in NFL history after signing a deal with the Jets before the '98 season. Mawae began his illustrious career as a right guard for the Seahawks before transitioning to center in his third season as a pro.

    The eight-time All-Pro was a member of the 2000s All-Decade Team. He strung together 177 consecutive starts in the trenches, marking one of the most impressive such streaks in NFL history.

    Mawae is most famous for paving the way for Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin, who depended upon the 290-pound center to find holes to run through.

    The Jets averaged 357.2 yards per game in Mawae's first season as a Jet. He also propelled Martin to rush for eight 100-yard games that season, a franchise record. Martin ran for at least 1,094 yards in seven consecutive seasons behind Mawae.

    That streak ended when Mawae suffered a triceps injury in 2005, which also marked the final season of Martin's career.

    Mawae is one of the best free agent acquisitions in Jets' history. He anchored the offensive line for nearly a decade and ignited Martin toward unprecedented success.

1. Curtis Martin (RB)

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    The best free agent signing in the 54-year existence of the Jets franchise is, hands-down, Curtis Martin. The Hall of Fame running back was pulled away from the arch-rival Patriots by Parcells in '98.

    The Jets used the tactical "poison pill" clause to acquire Martin, a restricted free agent, by sending New England two draft picks.

    Martin's career would rage on in New York, where he missed just five games in eight seasons while becoming the Jets all-time leading rusher, ranking fourth on the all-time list.

    Martin rushed for 10,302 yards and 58 touchdowns in 123 starts for the Jets. In 2004, he led the NFL in rushing yards with 1,697, the most accumulated in a single season during his career. He also became the oldest player (31) to win a rushing title that season.

    Martin was a hard-nosed runner that finished his career in company with Emmitt Smith, Walter Peyton and Barry Sanders as the only players to rush for 14,000 yards.

    Martin was rightfully inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012. The Jets officially retired No. 28 in a ceremony during the '12 home opener.