Baltimore has a history of building through the NFL Draft. But at times in the team's history, the Ravens have pulled the trigger on free-agent signings in order to add key elements to their core.
With this year's free agency period rapidly approaching on March 5, free agent buzz is starting to heat up. This offseason, the Ravens are somewhat limited in the market due to the "Final Eight" rule, but that shouldn't restrict our memory.
So let's take a look at my Top 10 biggest free agent signings the Ravens have made in franchise history, ranked in order of importance. And of course chime in with your take on where these rank or if there are other signings that stick out more in your mind.
Keep in mind, any deals in which the Ravens acquired a player in exchange for draft picks, such as with Steve McNair in 2006 or Willis McGahee in 2007, were trades, not free agent signings.
Check back tomorrow as we will break down the Ravens' All-Time Top 10 draft picks. After that we will take a look at the top trades in franchise history.
10. Deion Sanders, CB
Sept. 1, 2004; From retirement
His stay lasted only two years and the Ravens didn't reach the playoffs in either season, but c'mon, it's Deion. Lured out of retirement by Ravens management and friends, Sanders had five interceptions and one touchdown during his term in Baltimore. He added veteran knowledge and leadership and of course contributed some pizzazz.
9. Matt Birk, C
March 4, 2009; From Minnesota Vikings
It's not every day that you ink a six-time Pro Bowler. While catching a rock-solid center isn't as glitzy, this move paid big dividends in 2009 by unifying a young offensive line. And of course Birk's own skill will further enhance Baltimore's run game.
8. Trevor Pryce, DE
March 14, 2006; From Denver Broncos
Pryce was already a four-time Pro Bowler when the Ravens nabbed him. He went on log 13 sacks in his first season in Baltimore and led the Ravens with 6.5 quarterback drops in 2009. Pryce has been an integral figure on the defensive line the past several seasons.
7. Trent Dilfer, QB
March 13, 2000; From Tampa Bay Buccaneers This one definitely didn't seem that big at the time and lasted just one year, but how can you not count the Super-Bowl winning signal-caller? Dilfer was brought in to be Tony Banks' backup, but took over the starting gig in Week 8. You know the rest.
6. Sam Adams, DT
April 17, 2000; From Seattle Seahawks
Adams joined Siragusa to form the Ravens' run-stuffing duo in 2000. His tenure lasted just two years, but the greatest defense of all time wouldn't have been the same without Adams' gargantuan presence in the middle. He also went to a Pro Bowl while in Baltimore.
5. Tony Siragusa, DT
April 24, 1997; From Indianapolis Colts
After seven years of relative obscurity, "Goose" became the face of the brick wall at the front of the Ravens' Super Bowl defense. It wasn't just his girth that made this such a big signing. This jokester added to the Ravens' cockiness and nastiness at the same time.
4. Derrick Mason, WR
March 7, 2005; From Tennessee Titans
Can you imagine what the Ravens wide receiving unit would look like without Mason? He was a consistent producer before he came to Baltimore and hasn't missed a beat since. For five years, Mason has led the Ravens wideouts on the field and in the locker room.
3. Michael McCrary, DE
April 7, 1997; From Seattle Seahawks
McCrary had a breakout season in Seattle in 1996 and the Ravens scooped him up the following year. He was a relentless sack-machine and was the chief quarterback-tormenter on the Super Bowl defense. After six years and 51 sacks in Baltimore, McCrary was inducted into the Ravens' Ring of Honor.
2. Rod Woodson, FS
Feb. 20, 1998; From San Francisco 49ers
The young Ravens defensive backfield got its leader when Woodson arrived in 1998. Woodson not only unified the group, but also contributed 20 interceptions in his four seasons. Just last year, he entered the Hall of Fame with some of his best seasons coming in purple and black.
1.Shannon Sharpe, TE
Jan. 18, 2000; From Denver Broncos
Sharpe was perhaps the most integral piece added to the Ravens' Super Bowl roster. He carried the Ravens' passing game to Tampa in 2000 and was a father-figure for Ray Lewis. In 2001, he helped mentor his replacement, Todd Heap. The leadership and personality Sharpe brought to the Ravens in two seasons can't be measured.