The Packers are not known for going after big-name free agents. In fact, the aspect of free agency they are best known for is going after undrafted free agents. However, the Packers have made some historically great free agent signings. Here, we will take a look at the five best signings in franchise history.
Note: In order to qualify for this list, the player had to play for the Packers for over one season. Preston and Za’Darius Smith may end up on this list in the future, but Jared Cook is disqualified.
#5- Frank Winters
Frank Winters began his career with the Cleveland Browns in 1987. He played two season for the Browns, one for the New York Giants, and two for the Kansas City Chiefs. With three teams in five years, the signing of Frank Winters did not do much to generate much excitement.
However, “Frankie” would go on to be one of the greatest offensive linemen in Packers’ recent history. In 1992, Winters became the starting left guard on the offensive line. In ’93, he became the team’s center and would spend the next 10 years helping to lead a great Packers offense.
Winters made his first and only Pro Bowl in 1996. In that same season, he helped the Packers win Super Bowl XXXI. Frank “Baggadonuts” Winters was elected to the Packers’ Hall of Fame in 2008.
#4- Julius Peppers
Julius Peppers had been a defensive lineman for his entire career before signing with the Packers. However, upon signing with the Packers, Peppers agreed to change positions to help the Packers’ defensive scheme. He had already made eight Pro Bowls and three All-Pro teams as a defensive end, but became an outside linebacker in order to help the Packers.
In his three seasons with the Packers, Peppers recorded 25 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss. Additionally, he forced eight fumbles during his tenure with Green Bay. In 2015, Peppers recorded 10.5 sacks en route to his ninth Pro Bowl team, and first as a linebacker.
After his time in Green Bay ended, Peppers returned to where his career began in Carolina. He played two more seasons for the Panthers before retiring in 2018.
#3- Santana Dotson
Santana Dotson was a former All-American at Baylor University who won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was signed as a free agent by the Packers ahead of the 1996 season. His impact was felt immediately.
Along with a front four that included Reggie White, Gilbert Brown, and Sean Jones, the Packers’ defense crushed opponents. They won Super Bowl XXXI in Dotson’s first season with the Packers, and made a return trip to the Big Game the following season. Dotson spent six seasons in Green Bay, tallying up 26 sacks and 265 tackles. He retired following the 2001 season.
Santana Dotson currently sits on the Board of Directors of Texas Orthopedic Hospital and is a member of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and Baylor Hall of Fame.
#2- Charles Woodson
Former Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson started his career with the Oakland Raiders. He made the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons with them, but seemed to be taking a downturn to his career before signing with Green Bay before the 2006 season.
In his first season with the Packers, Woodson logged eight interceptions, which was more than he had in all of his five previous seasons combined. He was named to four more Pro Bowls and two All-Pro teams as a member of the Packers. In addition, Woodson won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 2009. Woodson led the NFL in interceptions twice as a member of the Packers, with nine in 2009 (three of which were returned for touchdowns) and seven in 2011.
Woodson sacrificed it all for the Packers, famously breaking his collar bone as he helped the team win Super Bowl XLV. He finished his career where it began in Oakland, playing with the Raiders again from 2013-2015
#1- Reggie White
Of course. Who else? Unlike all the other free agents the Packers have lured away from other teams, White was a perennial Pro Bowl and All-Pro defensive end. No one expected White to choose Green Bay in free agency. Former coach Mike Holmgren likes to think that it was his phone call to White that swayed him. Knowing that Reggie was a man of God, he called and said, “Hello Reggie, this is God. I want you to go to the Packers.”
Whether it was a contributing factor or not, White did choose the Packers and became the greatest defensive end in franchise history. During his time in Green Bay, White amounted 68.5 sacks, 301 tackles, and 14 forced fumbles. He still holds the Super Bowl record with three sacks in the game when the Packers defeated the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXI. Reggie made the Pro Bowl in each of his six seasons with the Pack. He also was named as an All-Pro twice (1995 and 1998).
White retired after the 1998 season, but returned to the NFL in 2000 and played one year with the Carolina Panthers. Sadly, Reggie White passed away the day after Christmas in 2004, before his election to the Hall of Fame.
Follow me on Twitter at @MrAdams88 and follow us @OTHWisconsin for more great content. Also, be sure to check out the Overtime Heroics Forums page to join in on the discussion. To read more of our articles and keep up to date on the latest in Wisconsin sports, click here!