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Cardinals' Best Free Agent Signings Ever? Start With Kurt Warner

Going over historical list underscores difficulty in signing such players

Monti Ossenfort has made the point there are "dangers" in free agency, and as I went through the years trying to find the top free agent signings for the Cardinals, that certainly played out. 

Sports Illustrated recently named the best free agent signings ever for each team, naming Kurt Warner the top for the Cardinals, and I cannot argue. The future Hall of Famer was excellent in Arizona, although he did have to fend off Matt Leinart at one point. 

(And to be clear, I'm not sure Warner's signing would have considered great before the 2007 season, and when he signed in Arizona, having moved on from both the Rams and Giants, it did not come with the same fanfare as some of the other signings the Cardinals have had.)

But let's not get off course. Warner was the best free agent signing -- we all know why -- and this is about, with free agency is about to begin next week, the best the Cardinals have signed (and how it's not easy to hit a home run with free agency signings. There are reasons the player's previous team let him go.)

This is also just about free agency. The Cardinals definitely have crushed the trade market, whether it was Chandler Jones or Carson Palmer or DeAndre Hopkins or even Kerry Rhodes. All those guys would be in the mix for top FA signings, if they had indeed been free agent signings.

It isn't as if the Cardinals haven't had free agent successes. Offensive linemen Jared Veldheer and Mike Iupati helped, although their impact was mostly for a couple of years. The Cardinals also had a bunch of one-year prove-it stars, although one year isn't enough to make the list -- still, Antonio Cromartie, Eric Winston, John Abraham, De'Vondre Campbell and 2013 Karlos Dansby (the second stint) were memorable.

But here is my list. (Pretty sure I didn't miss anyone, but I'm sure you'll let me know if I did.) Feel free to debate.

  1. Kurt Warner: Yes, it was bumpy at first but he was the driving force to reach that Super Bowl. Hall of Fame play. 
  2. James Conner: It wasn't a splashy signing at the time, but he's been the soul of the team, had his first 1,000-yard season and has scored 35 touchdowns in 32 games over three seasons. 
  3. Bertrand Berry: Had 14.5 sacks when he arrived in 2004 and if it hadn't been for injuries, would've had more than 40 sacks in his six seasons. Helped lead team from doldrums to Super Bowl. Was second team all-pro in 2004.
  4. Lomas Brown: Was already 33 when he came to Arizona, but made the Pro Bowl his first season in 1996 and then anchored the line at left tackle for the Cardinals' first desert playoff berth in 1998. 
  5. Edgerrin James - Seth Joyner (tie): I couldn't decide, so I went with the tie. Edge was the splashiest of splashes, signing ahead of the Matt Leinart splashy draft pick and a new stadium. And his tenure was underrated. He had two 1,000-yard seasons, and while 2008 was tough as he sat a lot, he was the key to the playoff running game that helped get the Cardinals to the Super Bowl. His swag helped that postseason run too. As for Joyner, he was pretty darn good as a linebacker from 1994-96. The team wasn't winning but he played all 48 games, getting 12 sacks, seven interceptions and five forced fumbles in a pretty good defense.
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