No. 1: Running Back Lawrence Phillips
Signed in 1999 to a two-year, $1.75 million contract
The No. 1 player on our list of worst 49ers free-agent signings? Well, that has to be the late running back, Lawrence Phillips.
Phillips had plenty of red flags when the Niners brought him aboard on a two-year deal back in 1999 — elements San Francisco hoped wouldn’t be an issue when he joined the team’s backfield. Those red flags forced both the St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins to part ways with him prematurely, years prior.
But those character concerns aren’t totally why he winds up being the worst free-agent selection in San Francisco.
No, it’s because he whiffed on the crucial block against Cardinals safety Aeneas Williams that got to quarterback Steve Young, which ended the eventual Hall of Famer’s career.
You know, this one.
That alone is bad enough. Later that year, however, Phillips reportedly began to refuse attending practices, which ultimately led to his release after eight games played that year.
”To my knowledge, Lawrence said, ‘You don’t put me in during games anyway so why should I practice?'” then-head coach Steve Mariucci said. ”That’s conduct detrimental to the team if I ever saw it.”
Phillips later tried to resurrect his career in the Arena Football League and in the CFL. But more altercations with the coaching staff ultimately led to that flaming out, too.
Phillips, following additional off-field altercations, committed suicide in prison in 2016. That’s tragic, however, and has zero impact on these rankings.
Being responsible for Young’s career-ending injury, though, is enough to claim the top spot.