The best and worst free agent signings in 49ers history
BEST FREE AGENT SIGNINGS
Ray Brown G (1996)
Gentleman Ray was nasty on the field and solidified the line during his six seasons with the team. Late offensive line coach Bobb McKittrick said that you'd want Brown at a State Dinner and also in a back alley brawl.
Tim McDonald S (1993)
McDonald was one of the defendants in the case against the NFL to open up free agency. He was also the first unrestricted free agent the team signed, and he lead the defense during his eight years in San Francisco.
Deion Sanders CB (1994)
Prime Time only spent one year with the team, but what a year. His talent was utterly transcendent and who could forget his grudge match with then Falcon receiver Andre Rison, when Sanders picked off a pass right in front of him and then raced down the sidelines taunting his former Atlanta teammates. The 49ers also happened to win a Super Bowl that season.
Charlie Garner RB (1999)
Garner filled a crucial two-year gap with the 49ers by gaining 2,371 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns in his highly productive stint. He was also fun to watch.
Ken Norton Jr. LB (1994)
Norton was signed from the Cowboys and became the man in the middle for the team's superior defense. He led the team in tackles for seven consecutive seasons.
Garrison Hearst RB (1997)
Signed from the Bengals, Hearst set a then-team record with a 1,502 yard season in 1999. He later broke his ankle in a playoff game against Atlanta and was shelved for two seasons. Hearst did come back in 2001 and rushed for 1,206 yards, which was probably the greatest comeback in 49ers history.
Carlos Rogers CB (2011)
Became the player the 49ers hoped Nate Clements would become when they signed him to a deal with $20 million guaranteed in 2007. Rogers signed a one-year contract and set a personal best with six interceptions, which earned him a long-term deal this offseason.'
Justin Smith DE (2008)
Smith keeps getting better with age. He might have just turned in his best season of his career in 2011 and his work ethic is widely emulated throughout the locker room.
Gary Plummer LB (1994)
Solidified the linebacking corps with his leadership and run stopping ability after signing from San Diego.
Jeff Garcia QB (1999)
Unearthed by Bill Walsh, who brought the smallish Garcia down from Calgary of the CFL. He had the unenviable task of following Joe Montana and Steve Young, and he did so splendidly considering the team was beginning to crumble around him.
WORST FREE AGENT SIGNINGS
Fred Weary CB (2003)
Remember him after he signed from the Falcons? Don't worry nobody else does either.
J.T. O'Sullivan QB (2008)
Beloved by then-offensive coordinator Mike Martz, O'Sullivan alienated the press corps, the P.R. staff and many of his teammates with his prickly personality. After a rash of interceptions he was later benched and then he left at the end of the season.
Ashley Lelie WR (2007)
Signed after getting suspended by then-Denver coach Mike Shanahan during a contract squabble, Lelie was supposed to stretch the defense. The only thing he did was stretch the 49ers' pocket book. He lasted one year before fleeing to the Raiders.
Johnnie Morton WR (2005)
Once signed, it became painfully evident that the 13-year player had no speed. He struggled through the season and caught 21 passes. He later suffered further embarrassment in 2007 when he tried mixed martial arts and was quickly knocked out by German comedian Bernard Ackah.
Jonas Jennings LT (2005)
The former Bill said he was Rollin' with Nolan (referring to former coach Mike Nolan) during his introductory news conference. What followed was poor play and a series of ankle and knee injuries that had his own teammates questioning his toughness.
Antonio Langham CB (1998)
The former Alabama star was signed for five years and $17 million after four years with Cleveland/Baltimore. He then started 11 games with the 49ers and completely lost his confidence, giving up five touchdowns and eight pass-interference penalties.
Mark McMillian CB (1999)
Billed as a tough little corner (he was 5-7), McMillian didn't practice or play hard after signing a three-year deal and was released after six games.
Gabe Wilkins DE (1998)
Wilkins was big and athletic and signed a deal worth $20 million. Billed as the next Reggie White, Wilkins was slowed by a knee injury and left the team two years later with grand total of two sacks.
Johnny Johnson RB (1996)
The 49ers signed Johnson to a two-year, $3 million deal and had to cut defensive end Dennis Brown to do it. After filing the paperwork with the league, the former Santa Cruz High and San Jose State star reneged and never showed up.
Lawrence Phillips RB (1998)
Phillips was signed at the behest of Bill Walsh. He missed a blitz pickup that caused Steve Young's career-ending concussion. He was suspended by mid-season and then released at the end of the season.