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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Donte Whitner, San Francisco 49ers
Donte Whitner, San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Greatest free agent acquistions in San Francisco 49ers history: 12. Donte Whitner

49ers Tenure: 2011 – 2013

It sure seems like a while ago, but the 49ers defense of the early 2010s was one of the most dominant and formidable units in the entire NFL.

And safety Donte Whitner was a big reason for that.

Whitner joined the Niners in 2011, immediately making an impact with 62 tackles, two interceptions and 10 passes defended at strong safety. The following year, when the Niners made it to Super Bowl XLVII, Whitner managed to make the Pro Bowl — his first after being selected eighth overall by the Buffalo Bills back in the 2006 NFL Draft.

What made Whitner notable was his physicality on the field. He was more than adept against the run, and he could also hold his own in coverage. He backed up his Pro Bowl 2012 campaign with yet another solid effort in 2013, registering 73 tackles and 12 passes broken up, which ranked second on San Francisco’s defense.

The following year, however, the 49ers elected to let Whitner walk in free agency. He went on to have another Pro Bowl season with the Cleveland Browns before eventually joining the 49ers’ media coverage with NBC Sports Bay Area.