New England Patriots: 15 best free agent acquisitions of all-time

Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) /
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Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots
Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) /

LB. (2001-08). Mike Vrabel. 2. player. 47.

  • 3x Super Bowl champion (XXXVI, XXXVIII, XXXIX)
  • Pro Bowl (2007)
  • First-team All-Pro (2007)
  • 10 career touchdowns

Mike Vrabel is easily one of the most prolific and important figures in Patriots mythology.

No other player in franchise history made more significant contributions to the team’s winning culture in such a variety of ways: on defense as a game-wrecking linebacker, on offense as a deadly red zone receiving threat and on the sidelines as a player-coach with an uncanny understanding of the ins-and-outs of professional football.

It’s no surprise that Vrabel ended up as a coach in the NFL after retiring as a player back in 2010. He worked his way through stints with The Ohio State University and the Houston Texans until being named the Tennessee Titans’ head coach a little over a year ago.

Before he was ever holding a clipboard or a Microsoft Surface tablet, however, Vrabel had on gloves, pads, shells and a full football uniform. Interestingly enough though, that football uniform was originally black-and-yellow.

Hard as it may be now to imagine, Vrabel played for the Pittsburgh Steelers before he ever became a New England Patriot. A third-round pick in the 1997 NFL Draft, Vrabel played four seasons with the Steelers.

Despite never getting any official starts, he still managed one or two sacks per season. He even made a couple highlight plays along the way. This included a sack of then-Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe in the 1997-98 NFL playoffs.

Vrabel, like David Patten, joined the Patriots party at the perfect time in 2001… just in time to help the team win its first championship. He played in all 16 games that season and started in 75 percent of them, obliterating all his previous career highs in the process.

All in all, No. 50 suited up for eight straight seasons in New England, rarely missing games and carrying over his regular season success deep into the playoffs. Astoundingly, Vrabel finished his career with 10 receptions on 14 targets for 10 touchdowns.

You read that correctly: 10 receptions on 14 targets for 10 touchdowns. Even more impressively, two of those touchdown catches came in Super Bowl wins over the Carolina Panthers and the Philadelphia Eagles.

On most lists, Vrabel’s myriad accomplishments would earn him the top overall spot. He’s very close to having it here, too, but one other New England free agent pickup barely beats him out for the catbird seat…