5. Willis McGahee, RB
Contract: Three years, $7.5 million
When John Elway took over the Denver Broncos in 2011, one of the most underrated parts about how quickly he turned the team around is the fact that he was working with a backwards offseason thanks to CBA negotiations between the players and owners.
Since there was no collective bargaining agreement, the NFL Draft happened before free agency, so the Broncos were left to fill holes on their roster with very little time to get new players acclimated to their system.
Elway prioritized one player, in particular, that year in free agency.
Veteran running back Willis McGahee joined the Broncos after an injury-plagued career and became one of the top running backs in the NFL.
In 2011, McGahee earned a Pro Bowl bid as he rushed for 1,199 yards and four touchdowns on the number one rushing offense in the NFL during the ‘Tim Tebow’ year.
McGahee averaged 4.8 yards per carry and despite a decrease in usage in 2012 when the team brought in Peyton Manning and shifted to more of a pass-first offense, McGahee remained effective, averaging 4.4 yards per carry and rushing for another four touchdowns on 167 carries.
He also became even more effective as a receiver, catching 26 passes.
Though he only played two seasons in Denver, McGahee was one of the first and best free agent signings of the John Elway era.