Best free agent acquisitions in Green Bay Packers history: 5. Jesse Whittenton
Jesse Whittenton cracks the top-five of the greatest free agent signings in Packers history in large part due to his coverage abilities for head coach Vince Lombardi in the early 1960s. Whittenton played his first two years out of Texas Western with the Los Angeles Rams. He would join the Packers in 1958 as a free agent.
Whittenton played in total nine NFL seasons, with the last seven coming in Green Bay. It was with the Packers that he would make the Pro Bowl twice, be named All-Pro First Team and win two NFL Championships before retiring.
Green Bay won the NFL Championship in back-to-back years in 1961 and in 1962. 1961 would end up as Whittenton’s best season of his professional career. He made his first trip to the Pro Bowl and earned his lone All-Pro First-Team nod. Whittenton started in all 14 games for the Packers that season, finishing with five interceptions for 98 yards and a touchdown.
After a three-interception campaign in 1962 and another NFL Championship for the Packers, Whittenton earned his second and final trip to the Pro Bowl in 1963. He had four interceptions for 90 yards in his second to last season as a professional. Whittenton retired after the 1964 NFL season at age-30.
Overall, Whittenton played in 88 games for the Packers from 1958 to 1964, making 82 starts. He had 20 interceptions for 329 yards and a touchdown, as well as 10 fumble recoveries for 47 yards. Simply put, Whittenton had a nose for the football while in Packers uniform.
While his numbers don’t stand the test of time, Whittenton earns his top-five spot thanks to being part of two championship teams, as well as being a First-Team All-Pro on the 1961 Packers team. It’s strange that the Rams weren’t able to make the most out of Whittenton’s talent. It was clearly there, but Green Bay certainly got the most out of it during his seven years with the team.