Prior to November 1983, free agency in the National Football League was largely seen as a "paper tiger" distinction:  with no other league to compete for a player's services and his NFL rights being heavily restricted even as a free agent, a player had the choice of either signing with his old club or retiring.

Gary Barbaro was one of a group of players who changed that viewpoint.  A three-time Pro Bowl defensive back with the Kansas City Chiefs, Barbaro had played seven years for the Kansas City Chiefs and was a free agent contract holdout when Donald Trump and the New Jersey Generals came calling.  Barbaro signed with the Gens, sending a small shock wave through the NFL and making soon-to-be free agents in the league smile broadly - it was proof that the USFL could and would make offers for NFL free agents.  Improved player salaries would be forthcoming to be sure.

Barbaro would play only one season in the USFL before retiring after 1983, but his signing alone added to the credibility of the fledgling league, sending a signal to the NFL's players that there was now an open market for their services.  Once Barbaro's football days were over, he went into the food service industry, where today he's the Louisiana and South Mississippi representative for Marketing Agents South, a manufacturer's representative.


New Jersey Generals

(Then and Now)


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