New York Jets: 15 best free agent acquisitions of all-time
- Signed a six-year, $36 million contract w/Jets in 1998
- Member Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2012
- 2-time First-Team All-Pro w/Jets (2001, 2004)
- New York Jets’ all-time leading rusher (10,302 rushing yards)
Not only is Curtis Martin the greatest free agent signing in Jets history, but he’s one of the greatest players in the entirety of the team’s history. His signing changed the fortunes of the both the Jets and the New England Patriots, the team who Martin had been signed away from. If anything, it added yet another chapter in the storied rivalry between the two franchises.
Martin had quickly established himself as one of the premier running backs in the league with the Patriots, but was set to become a restricted free agent ahead of the 1998 season. Despite the Patriots having little concern that they would lose the Pro Bowl running back, Martin’s agent reached out to the Jets and the two sides agreed to an offer sheet that would make him the highest paid running back in the league at the time.
The Patriots had no choice but to rescind their offer and allow Martin to sign with the Jets, as the team had run into some cap trouble. Although they had to give up first and third-round draft picks, the signing was undoubtedly worth it.
The Jets had just one losing season during Martin’s tenure with the team, as the Pittsburgh product rushed for seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, including an incredible 1,697 yards in 2004, still a franchise record.
Martin is the organization’s all-time leading rusher with over 10,000 rushing yards with the team. His 14,101 career rushing yards ranks fifth all-time in NFL history ahead of NFL greats such as LaDainian Tomlinson, Jerome Bettis and Eric Dickerson.
Martin was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012 and his No. 28 jersey has been retired by the Jets. He is one of just five players to have his jersey officially retired by the organization.
Given the success he had following his time with the Patriots, it’s fair to assume that New England wishes they made a more concerted effort to keep him. Instead, Martin wound up becoming one of the most successful players in Jets history, running all over the Patriots for almost a decade, a rare victory for the Jets in this typically one-sided rivalry.
After all these years, Martin may very well be the best skill position player the Jets have ever had. He’s undoubtedly one of the most accomplished players to ever wear the green and white.
At the end of the day, Martin is unquestionably the greatest free agent signing in Jets history.