The Best Ever Houston Free Agent Signings

So the Houston Rockets have signed turnover machine/point guard/free agent Jeremy Lin to a contract, and apparently, the city of Houston is going nuts. I'm not quite ready to buy into the hype, and I'm not going to be doing any stupid puns on his name. That said, good luck to the kid and the Rockets this season.

And because of this free agent signing, I thought I would take a look at what I consider to be the best free agent signings in Houston sports history.

10. Arian Foster Remember, Foster signed with the Texans as an undrafted free agent out of college. That's because no team bothered to draft him. So the Texans made an actual smart move and snapped him up, and now he's one of the best running backs in the league.

9. Jim Kelly Kelly was drafted by the Buffalo Bills of the NFL, but he turned them down to sign with the upstart Houston Gamblers of the USFL. The Gamblers employed the run-and-shoot offense, and Kelly took delight in picking apart opposing defenses. He later ended up in the NFL, where he directed the Bills to four Super Bowls (none of which they could win), and is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

8. George Blanda The original quarterback of the Houston Oilers, Blanda came out of retirement in the NFL to join the new AFL. He led the Oilers to the championship game in the league's first three years, and the Oilers won the first two. Blanda went on to finish his career with the Oakland Raiders and he, too, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

7. Roger Clemens Say what you will about Clemens, he did earn his money with the Astros. He went 38-18 with 505 strikeouts in his three seasons. He was a key ingredient in the team's 2005 run to the World Series.

6. Jeff Kent The power-hitting second baseman only played with the Astros for two seasons, but he hit 49 homers and knocked 200 runs in those two years as his offense helped to power the Astros to the NCLS in 2004.

5. Gordie Howe Howe was one of the NHL's all-time greats. And he had retired. But the Aeros of the upstart WHA came calling, and they gave him the opportunity to play with two of his sons, so he signed a deal and played in Houston for seasons after spending 25 seasons with the NHL's Detroit Red Wings. The Aeros won the WHA championship his first two seasons with the team.

4. Warren Moon Moon wasn't drafted out of college because he refused to switch position. He played several years in Canada, then when that contract expired, a bidding war ensued which was won by the Oilers. Moon played ten seasons in Houston and is now in the Hall of Fame.

3. Andy Pettitte Pettitte didn't want to leave the New York Yankees, where he'd spent his entire career. But he felt like he was being disrespected by Yankees management and jumped when the chance to sign with the Astros came along. Pettitte helped convince the then-retired Clemens to join him with the Astros.

2. Nolan Ryan Ryan signed the then largest free agent contract ever when he signed with the Astros. He pitched nine seasons for the Astros. He pitched a no-hitter, multiple one-hitters and bypassed Walter Johnson on the all-time strikeout list while pitching for the Astros.

1. Larry Andersen The Astros picked up Andersen in May of 1986 after he was dumped by the Phillies. Andersen pitched five seasons for the Astros and was a very effective late-innings reliever. But he's got the number one spot because the Red Sox were so desperate for bullpen help during a run for the playoffs in 1990 that they traded a then obscure minor leaguer named Jeff Bagwell for his services.

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John Royal is a native Houstonian who graduated from the University of Houston and South Texas College of Law. In his day job he is a complex litigation attorney. In his night job he writes about Houston sports for the Houston Press.
Contact: John Royal