Top 10 Free Agent Signings in 49ers History

San Francisco has used free agency as an avenue to improve the team over the years.

There have been many elite free-agent signings throughout the San Francisco 49ers storied past. Undoubtedly, the team's acquisition of Justin Smith is near the top of that list.

Below is our take (in alphabetical order) at the top 10 free-agent acquisitions in 49ers history.

  1. OG Larry Allen

Year signed: 2006

Former team: Dallas Cowboys

Seasons with 49ers: Two

Highlights of 49ers tenture: After being released by the Cowboys the year prior, Allen started 11 games for the 49ers in 2006 and was voted to his 11th career Pro Bowl. That year, Frank Gore rushed for a franchise-record 1,695 yards. Allen missed five games with a knee injury that season but played in all 16 contests in 2007. He retired from football the following offseason in Aug. 2008.

  1. OG Ray Brown

Year signed: 1996

Former team: Washington

Seasons with 49ers: Six

Highlights of 49ers tenture: Brown started 95 games and missed only one during his time with San Francisco, a stint that began at the age of 34. The guard made his first and only Pro Bowl in 2001. He was also named an All-Pro that year. At 6-foot-5, 318 pounds, Brown was a consistent and reliable force in both pass protection and the run game. Brown later worked as an assistant offensive line coach with the 49ers in 2010.

  1. QB Jeff Garcia

Year signed: 1999

Former team: Calgary Stampeders

Seasons with 49ers: Five

Highlights of 49ers tenture: At least partially discovered by the great Bill Walsh, Garcia came to the 49ers straight from the Canadian Football League and had the uneviable task of succeeding Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young. Garcia made the Pro Bowl three straight years froom 2000-2002, leading San Francisco to the playoffs in two of those seasons. During the 2002 playoffs, Garcia helped orchestrate the second-largest comeback victory in NFL playoff history. The 49ers trailed the New York Giants by 28 points in the third quarter but won the game, 39-38. In all, Garcia threw for 113 touchdowns and ran for 21 more in his 49ers career.

  1. RB Charlie Garner

Year signed: 1999

Former team: Philadelphia Eagles

Seasons with 49ers: Two

Highlights of 49ers tenture: With San Francisco, Garner recorded the only two 1,000-yard rushing seasons in his 11-year NFL career. In 2000, he averaged 4.4 yards per carry, scored seven touchdowns and earned his only Pro Bowl selection. His production helped bridge a two-year gap when the next player on this list was injured.

  1. RB Garrison Hearst

Year signed: 1997

Former team: Cincinnati Bengals

Seasons with 49ers: Five

Highlights of 49ers tenture: After consecutive 1,000-yard seasons in 1997 and 1998 to begin his 49ers career, Hearst suffered a gruesome ankle injury in the playoffs against the Atlanta Falcons. The running back experienced complications during his rehab and subsequently missed the ensuing two seasons. Hearst returned in 2001 and rushed for 1,206 yards. He was named the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year and earned his second Pro Bowl nod.

  1. LB Rickey Jackson

Year signed: 1994

Former team: New Orleans Saints

Seasons with 49ers: Two

Highlights of 49ers tenture: Jackson started 30 of 32 possible games with the 49ers, tallying a combined 14 sacks in his two seasons. He helped San Francisco win Super Bowl XXIX as key memeber of the defense before retiring in 1996. Jackson was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

  1. S Tim McDonald

Year signed: 1993

Former team: Arizona Cardinals

Seasons with 49ers: Seven

Highlights of 49ers tenture: McDonald was the first unrestricted free agent the 49ers signed. It turned out to be a fruitful decision. McDonald was a three-time Pro Bowler in San Francisco and amassed 76 tackles, two interceptions and two defensive touchdowns during the 49ers run to win Super Bowl XXIX. The safety's best season came in 1998, when he tallied 15 pass breakups, four sacks and four interceptions. He started 111 out of a possible 112 games for the 49ers. McDonald's son is a draft prospect this year.

  1. LB Ken Norton Jr.

Year signed: 1994

Former team: Dallas Cowboys

Seasons with 49ers: Seven

Highlights of 49ers tenture: Once he arrived in San Francisco, Norton led the 49ers in tackles for six consecutive seasons. He was a significant part of the team's fifth Super Bowl win in 1994 and went on to be named first-team All-Pro in 1995, when he recorded 95 tackles, a sack, three interceptions and two touchdowns.

  1. CB Deion Sanders

Year signed: 1994

Former team: Atlanta Falcons

Seasons with 49ers: One

Highlights of 49ers tenture: Sanders' lone year in San Francisco was one for the history books. He picked off six passes, returning three of them for a total of 303 yards and three touchdowns. His most famous interception came against his former team, when he picked off a Jeff George pass and brought it back 93 yards in the face of the Falcons sideline. Sanders also tallied an interception in the 49ers Super Bowl victory over the San Diego Chargers. He was voted the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for his efforts.

  1. DT Justin Smith

Year signed: 2008

Former team: Cincinnati Bengals

Seasons with 49ers: Seven

Highlights of 49ers tenture: Like a fine wine, Smith kept getting better with age. The pass-rusher earned five consecutive Pro Bowl selections from 2009-2013, a stint that included three All-Pro nods and Sports Illustrated's Defensive Player of the Year Award (2011). He helped lead the 49ers to three straight NFC Championship games and created far more sacks than he got credit for, as opposing teams often double-teamed him.

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