Earlier this week, just before the start of the 2013 open market, we ran down the top 20 UFA signings for the Buccaneers during the first 20 years of NFL free agency. That same day, we asked you to vote on the single best signing by the Bucs in that period. We picked Hardy Nickerson as the top signing; you voted for Simeon Rice.
You folks are smart.
Or, at least, you’re on the same page as the experts at NFL.com, who recently ranked the top 20 free agent signings in the entire league over the last 20 years. Nickerson isn’t on the list, but Rice is. That’s a pretty impressive showing for the former edge-rusher, given the hundreds of signings that have taken place over the past two decades. Rice comes in at #18 on the list, just ahead of the Saints’ signing of S Darren Sharper in 2009 and just behind the Bills’ addition of DE Bryce Paup in 1995.
The NFL.com analysis of what made the Rice signing so good for Tampa Bay in 2001 was very similar to our own reasoning in ranking Rice third on the Bucs’ top 20 list, right after Nickerson and QB Brad Johnson. As the NFL experts say:
“The Buccaneers already boasted one of the NFL’s best defenses when Rice arrived in 2001 to help add a pass-rushing presence. Rice provided that pressure, registering double-digit sack totals in five consecutive seasons. In the Buccaneers’ first and only Super Bowl appearance, Rice recorded two sacks as Tampa Bay dominated the Oakland Raiders, 48-21.”
Four of the top 20 moves were made by NFC South teams. In addition to the Rice and Sharper signings, the list gives credit to Atlanta for its Michael Turner pickup in 2008 (#16) and particularly likes the Saints acquisition of Drew Brees in 2006 (#2). In fact, the only move deemed better than the Brees signing in the last 20 years was one of the first big free agency splashes – the Packers signing of DE Reggie White in 1993.