5 greatest Jets free agency moves of all time

The Jets, who own a sometimes-wacky history, have plenty to boast about when it comes to signing free agents. They did, after all, ink Curtis Martin and Kevin Mawae, two of the greatest signings in NFL history.

Here’s a list of the five best free agent signings in Gang Green history.

A disclaimer: We’re only considering veteran free agents here, not the undrafted kind. (Sorry, Wayne Chrebet!). But, as our five selections show, there’s always plenty to dream on in free agency.

The list, ranked from fifth to first, is below….


When given this assignment, our first thought was “Can’t Wait!” That’s how much we wanted to put Scott on this list. Dad Joke aside, Scott’s fire, like when he groused about the Jets getting no respect after they knocked off the mighty Patriots in the 2010 playoffs weeks after a blowout loss, was an indelible part of those terrific Jets teams in 2009-10.

Heads up, non-believers – Scott and that brawny defense were a big reason the Jets made consecutive AFC Championship games those years.

The linebacker signed a six-year, $48 million contract before the 2009 season as the Rex Ryan era was starting and played 63 games in four years for the Jets -- 60 of them starts. He had 299 tackles, 37 tackles for loss and nine sacks.


The Jets made Faneca the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL when they gave him a five-year, $40 million contract in 2008, and he delivered two Pro Bowl seasons and one second-team All-Pro nod in his brief, but impactful, stint in green.

Faneca boosted the Jets' turnaround in the late 2000s and was a key hole-opener for the league’s No. 1 rushing attack in 2009. The Jets, relying on the ground game, ran for 2,756 yards that season, topped by Thomas Jones, who ran for 1,402 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Faneca started every game in his Jets tenure and had just one holding penalty, according to Pro Football Reference. His two Pro Bowl selections ran his streak to nine in a row, counting his time with the Steelers, and he was eventually elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

New York Jets Vinny Testaverde (16) passes against the Broncos during the Bronco s defense during the AFC Championship game at Mile High Stadium in Denver on Jan 17, 1999.


When the Jets signed Testaverde prior to the 1998 season, he was supposed to be a backup, but he flourished as the starter after Glenn Foley was injured. Testaverde went 12-2 and the Jets finished that season 12-4 -- the best record over a 16-game schedule in franchise history. Testaverde threw for 29 touchdowns, fourth in the NFL, against only seven interceptions and totaled 3,256 yards passing. He made the Pro Bowl.

And the Jets made the AFC Championship Game for the first time since 1982. The next year, Testaverde suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in the opener, but he came back to lead the Jets to winning records in 2000 and 2001 and another playoff berth, though he also led the NFL in interceptions in 2000.

You might remember one of his mega-games, too – the Monday Night Miracle on Oct. 23, 2000. The Jets trailed the Dolphins, 30-7, in the fourth quarter and Testaverde fired four of his five total TD passes in the fourth to bring them back. The Jets won, 40-37, in overtime.

2. KEVIN MAWAE once ranked Mawae – a tough, reliable center – as the 11th-best free agent signing in league history. The Jets signed him before the 1998 season and he bloomed into a Hall-of-Fame lineman, getting first-or-second team All Pro recognition six times, and being named to six Pro Bowls in eight years in green.

The Jets made him the league’s highest-paid center when they signed him to a five-year deal worth $17 million, including a $5 million signing bonus. At one point, Mawae played in 177 consecutive games, blasting open holes for, among others, Curtis Martin to scamper through. Martin owns the three biggest rushing seasons in Jets history and it’s no surprise that Mawae was the center for all three of those years.

Mawae, who was enshrined in Canton in 2019, was also a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s. After his playing career, he served as the president of the NFL Players Association.


The Jets signed Martin, a restricted free agent, to a six-year, $36 million deal before the 1998 season, and he continued what had been a terrific career already in New England. Martin’s name is all over the Jets’ record books – he’s the team’s all-time leading rusher (10,302 yards) and has the most rushing touchdowns (58). He’s also fourth in overall touchdowns (63), behind Don Maynard (88), Wesley Walker (71) and Emerson Boozer (65).

Can’t imagine the Jets from 1998-2005 without Martin. In his first seven years, they went 64-48 and made the playoffs four times. Martin, the sixth-leading rusher in NFL history with 14,101 yards, had 1,000-yard seasons in each of those first seven seasons with the Jets. Out of the 10 best rushing seasons in team history, Martin has six of them, including the single-season record of 1,697.

No wonder once ranked him as the seventh-best free agent signing in league history. And no wonder he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012.