Every NFL Team's Best Free Agent Signing- AFC North
These players were brought in and helped their new teams reach new heights. Today, I name each AFC North squad's best free agency pickup.
Baltimore Ravens- Shannon Sharpe
He was the Ravens most consistent receiver during their Super Bowl run.
A seventh round pick in 1990 out of Savannah State by the Denver Broncos, Shannon Sharpe was thought to be too small to play tight end and too slow to be a wide receiver and no one knew much about him other than he was Sterling Sharpe's little brother. Instead he became a the first of a new breed of tight end. He proved to be too fast for linebackers and too strong for defensive backs, Sharpe was a mismatch for defenses week in and week out. He was an instrumental part of the Broncos winning back to back Super Bowls in 1997 and 1998. In 10 seasons in Denver, Sharpe was a seven time Pro Bowler, five time All-Pro, two time Super Bowl champion, and a member of the 90's All-Decade Team.
In 2000, Sharpe signed with the Baltimore Ravens on a four- year contract worth $14 million. Sharpe joked with general manager Ozzie Newsome that he could watch him everyday as he broke all of his records. As it turns out he would. In his two years in Baltimore, he passed Newsome in receptions and receiving yards by a tight end while helping the Ravens win Super Bowl XXXV. Sharpe returned to Denver in 2002 where he would pass Newsome in career touchdowns by a tight end before retiring after 2003.
Cincinnati Bengals- Adam Jones
Cincinnati took a chance on "Pacman" and it paid off.
A first round pick in 2005 out of West Virginia by the Tennessee Titans, Adam Jones was the top rated cornerback coming out of college. During his rookie season, he had 44 tackles, 10 passes defended and totaled 1,399 return yards and one touchdown on special teams. The next year, he totaled career high 62 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, four interceptions, 130 return yards, one interception touchdown, 14 passes defended, 440 punt return yards and tied for NFL-lead with three punt return touchdowns.
Starting before he ever got on the NFL field, teams were concerned about signing Jones due to many off the field issues. While in college, he was on probation for assault and vandalism. After his rookie year, he was arrested for a misdemeanor drug possession. In 2007, he was arrested after an altercation in a Las Vegas strip club. The incident resulted in Jones being suspended for the entire 2007 season. After being reinstated in 2008 and signing with Dallas, he was involved with an altercation with his bodyguard at a Dallas hotel. The incident resulted in Jones being suspended for four games and ultimately ended up him being released by the Cowboys.
In 2010, Jones signed with the Cincinnati Bengals on a two- year contract. The pairing proved to be a good fit as he didn't have any major off the field issues in his eight seasons in Cincinnati. In that time, he had 12 interceptions, five forced fumbles, two defensive touchdowns, and a punt return touchdown while being named All-Pro in 2014 and a Pro Bowler in 2015 as a return man.
Cleveland Browns- Frank Minnifield
He helped form one of the top cornerback tandems in the league.
After playing two years in the USFL, Frank Minnifield signed with the Cleveland Browns in 1984. He quickly became known for his aggressive bump-and-run coverage and hard hitting style. Together, he and fellow cornerback Hanford Dixon formed one of the greatest duos in NFL history and were the ones who named Cleveland's fans the "Dawg Pound." He and Dixon are the only two cornerbacks in league history to go to three Pro Bowls together. In his nine seasons with the Browns, he had 20 interceptions for 127 yards and recovered seven fumbles. Minnifield retired after the 1992 season as a four time Pro Bowler, a 1988 All-Pro, and a member of the 80's All-Decade Team.
Pittsburgh Steelers- James Farrior
His career exploded once he joined Pittsburgh.
A first round pick in 1997 out of Virginia by the New York Jets, James Farrior was rarely used in his first four seasons. Until 2001, he played sparingly as a reserve outside linebacker, playing in only 27 games from 1997 through 2000. In 2001, Farrior broke out and recorded 142 tackles, one sack, and two interceptions.
In 2002, Farrior signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers and was moved to his original college position at inside linebacker. He proved to be a perfect fit in the team's 3-4 defensive scheme. In his first year in Black and Gold, he made 84 tackles despite missing two games. By 2004, he made 94 tackles, three sacks, a career high four interceptions, and also finished second behind Ed Reed for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. In 2008, he signed a five- year contract worth $18.25 million to remain with the Steelers. in 10 seasons in Pittsburgh, he finished with 1,080 tackles, 30 sacks, 12 forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries, 53 passes defended, eight interceptions, and a touchdown. Farrior retired from the NFL after 2011 as a two time All-Pro, two time Pro Bowler, three time AFC Champion, and two time Super Bowl champion.