Former Steelers LB James Farrior Makes Top 20 List Of Best Free Agent Signings In NFL History

Jim Reineking of posted a photo essay on Wednesday of his top 20 free-agent signings in NFL history. I was a little hesitant to even flip through it for fear that he would not include former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Farrior in his list. Surprisingly, he did.

Reineking ranked Farrior 14th overall, which is more than fair, in my opinion.

Farrior remains the best free agent acquisition that Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert has ever had in his 13 years in Pittsburgh. After being signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2002, Farrior would go on to start in a 154 regular season games for the Steelers after being considered a first round bust by the New York Jets after his first 5 seasons in the league.

Farrior was signed by the Steelers to a three-year, $5.4 million contract in April of 2002 that included a $1.7 million signing bonus. The Steelers chose to go with him over unrestricted free agent Earl Holmes, who wound up signing a five-year, $17.5 contract with the Cleveland Browns.

“We felt James was the best fit from both the player standpoint as well as a cap standpoint,” said Colbert, via the 2002 report by Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We wanted to get this thing settled and we tried to get aggressive in that direction.”

With the Jets, Farrior had played weak outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense, so the move to the inside of the Steelers 3-4 defense was a risk, but one that Colbert felt comfortable taking.

“When we had him in for his visit we felt comfortable he could play in this scheme,” said Colbert. “There\’s always some risk involved but with his intelligence and athleticism, we felt the risk was worth taking.”

The Steelers head into the 2013 league year with a question mark at the position that Farrior played for so long. Larry Foote, who took over the position last year after Farrior was released in the offseason, played adequately, but is now an unrestricted free agent himself. The Steelers have had contract talks with him, but have yet to re-sign him. Even if they do, Foote only has one more season in him.

The position might be addressed during the upcoming draft, but in the meantime, Colbert might be looking at the long list free agents in hopes of finding the next Farrior. Being as how the Steelers are cap crunched, the pickings will certainly be slim.

Even if the Steelers were to stray away from their recent history of not being active in free agency, the chances of catching lightning in a bottle, like they did with Farrior, is slim. At least Reineking recognized that as well.

  • mghjr88

    I wonder how much money Phillip Wheeler is asking for

  • Rolando McClain?

    After Oakland releases him, he’d come cheap due to the knucklehead factor. A lot of potential upside if you feel he can grow up. Very little risk either way.

  • LucasY59

    He’s another huge Raiders bust, he got paid and didn’t think it was necessary to play. His arrest looks really bad and he has about as much effort to turn himself around as Jamarcus Russell. I agree he has some upside but good luck getting him to use it, his disappointing play is almost as bad as his off the field stuff. If he was a 3x probowler he wouldnt be on the cutting block

  • mokhkw

    Had the same thought a while ago – until his latest arrest. Could still be worth kicking the tyres on if he’s cheap but I don’t hold out much hope for him.

  • JohnnyV1

    James Farrior was the man! He not only ranks as one of the top free agent acquisitions, but one of the best moves Kevin Colbert & Co. have made in acquiring talent outside of the draft and rookie free agents. Farrior, Jerome Bettis, Kevin Greene, James Harrison all pretty astute moves!

  • steeltown

    Agreed. Love Farrior… and dont forget about Ryan Clark

  • steeltown

    I know i’m biased because i’m a Steelers faithful.. but I think Ryan Clark ranks up there as well.. dude went undrafted way back when, he’s been a constant in the secondary since being signed in ’06, in the last 4yrs he missed only two games and those were games in Denver were he was forced to sit due to his sickle cell trait

  • steeltown

    I find it very interesting whats happened to the Raiders in the last decade or so.. it seems they draft the sexy picks, guys with speed but not alot of other upside or ability (I always think of Heyward Bey, his college stats were NOT impressive at all, yet because he ran a 4.3 they drafted him 7th overall..crazy.. or even our own Van Dyke had a well below avg college career, but because he ran a 4.28 they drafted him in the 3rd 81st overall)

    BUT also I think they have major problems actually refining and grooming their own talent. Not sure if its a coaching and staff/personnel problem or what.. but they cant seem to develop any talent in OAK

  • Pete

    I was thinking the same thing. I agree. Clark has played very well in that position and brings the hammer. Clarks fits in nicely with a long line of Steeler safeties who would punish receivers coming across the middle. I think it was a great pick up from Washington. The hit on Willis McGahee will always be a classic in my books.

  • TsarPepe

    There is simply no way the Steelers touch McClain with a 10-ft pool after the headaches with Ben, Santonio, Alameda, and Rainey. The same goes for potential draft choices like Ogletree.

  • Pete

    Bettis has to also rank as one of the best all time free agent signings. Certainly one of the best if not the best for the Steelers.

  • SteelersDepot

    That was a trade and pre Colbert

  • Garrett Hunt

    They did alright with Jacoby Ford…. but guess that is only one of many picks.

  • What sticks out more on that list are Woodson and Vrabel being on it. All-time worst move by the Steelers was letting Woodson leave. Even if there was a bad relationship between him and the organization, and he wanted to leave, you just don’t let a Hall of Fame player walk out the door.

  • richard

    Clark doesn’t get the notoriety because Troy gets most of the press. All Steelers fans know when it comes to laying the wood , Clark hits like a ton of bricks. It is Clarks play that allows Troy to play superman.