San Francisco 49ers: 15 best free-agent acquisitions of all time

Garrison Hearst, San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Garrison Hearst, San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images) /
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Deion Sanders, San Francisco 49ers
Deion Sanders, San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The 49ers have had an up-and-down history regarding NFL free agency. But there have been more than a few notable signings that worked. Here are the 15 best the team has ever made.

Rewind back to 1994 and a time when the San Francisco 49ers were still basking in the glory of what was arguably the best dynasty in the NFL up to that point. Long before the league introduced the modern-day salary cap as we know it, the Niners were looking to avenge an NFC Championship game loss to the Dallas Cowboys the year before.

And San Francisco thought cornerback Deion Sanders would help get the 49ers over the hump.

That was one of the better acquisitions in NFL free agency the Niners ever made. Sanders did help the 49ers get to their fifth Super Bowl, putting in one of the best seasons from a cornerback in the modern era.

Sure, there have been some less-stellar free-agent pickups San Francisco has made over the years. The good news, however, is most of the solid and great pickups have vastly overshadowed the mistakes.

But what about the best?

To determine the criteria, Niner Noise will rank the top 15 based on the following factors and data:

  • Contract and length of tenure with the 49ers
  • Traditional stats and accolades
  • How much the player met or exceeded expectations

It’s tough to truly quantify everything on this list. And there are those who barely miss the cut, including the following:

  • Quarterback Steve Bono (don’t overlook his fill-in work behind Joe Montana and Steve Young)
  • Cornerback Walt Harris (remember his eight interceptions in 2006?)
  • Linebacker Takeo Spikes (he filled a vital void before NaVorro Bowman’s emergence)
  • Defensive end Marques Douglas
  • Kicker David Akers (one year was exceptional)
  • Cornerback Carlos Rogers (that 2011 season was pretty special)

Those were great free-agent pickups by San Francisco, sure. But here are the 15 most memorable.