Packers' five super signings

The National Football League's free agency period began Feb. 28, and though the Packers do not figure to be too active, they have made some notable signings in the past. Here is a look at the team's top five free agent signings during the Super Bowl era:<p>

5. Johnnie Gray - Gray made an impact soon after he arrived in Titletown. In his second season, he led the team in punt returns and interceptions (four). He became a regular starter at safety throughout his career (1975-1983) and was inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame 10 years ago this month. He finished with 22 career interceptions and edges out fellow Packer Report columnist Don Beebe for this spot.

4. Desmond Howard - The diminutive Howard came to Green Bay as an unrestricted free agent from the Jaguars in 1996. Signed on July 11, he entered training camp with relatively little fan fare and at a low salary, having fallen out of place as a top draft pick four years prior. Howard managed to make the final roster after impressing enough as a return man and then parlayed his opportunity into one of the best seasons a returner has ever had. Including pre-season and post-season, he returned five punts and one kickoff for touchdowns. He set a number of team and NFL return records in the process and was named the Super Bowl XXXI MVP, where his 99-yard kickoff return was the big play in the Packers' win over the Patriots. Though Howard spent just one season with the Packers, they may not have won a championship without him.

3. Frank Winters - Under the NFL's old Plan B free agency system, the Packers signed Winters as a backup at guard and center and for long-snapping duties in 1992. He played the previous five seasons with three different teams. Injuries gave him a shot to start, however, and his never gave up that position over the next nine years. He became the regular starter at center and a best friend of quarterback Brett Favre. Together, they helped the Packers become consistent championship contenders. Winters plans to return next year for a 17th NFL season.

2. Paul Coffman - A rookie free agent signing in 1978 out of Kansas St., Coffman became arguably the best tight end in team history. With his plodding, hard-nosed style, he became a favorite target of quarterback Lynn Dickey on several high-powered offenses. His 322 receptions in eight years with the Packers places him seventh on the all-time team list. He also had 39 career touchdowns. Three times he was named a Pro Bowl selection and was elected to the Packer Hall of Fame in 1994.

1. Reggie White - The Packers broke the bank and the hearts of several NFL teams in 1993 with their most notable free agent signing ever and one of the biggest in the history of the modern era of free agency. White signed with the Packers for $17 million over four seasons, coming over from the Eagles after a whirlwind tour of several NFL cities. Green Bay did not really figure to be in the running, but general manager Ron Wolf, head coach Mike Holmgren, and Favre won over what many consider the game's greatest defensive lineman. He did not disappoint, either, collecting 68.5 sacks (team record) in six seasons with the Packers and helping lead them to their first NFL title in nearly 30 years.


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