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?
New Orleans Saints
St. Louis Rams