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NFL San Francisco 49ers

5 Biggest Free Agent Signings in San Francisco 49ers History

5 Biggest Free Agent Signings in San Francisco 49ers History

Ken Norton Jr, 49ers
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The NFL free agency period has officially begun, and the San Francisco 49ers have their work cut out for them. Dealing with salary cap issues, they will struggle to keep valuable pieces together this offseason, while renegotiating with Colin Kaepernick and already agreeing to sign Anquan Boldin and Antoine Bethea.

As San Francisco is set for a busy offseason full of big moves, here's a look at the top five free agent signings in 49ers history.

5. Tim McDonald

Tim McDonald, San Francisco 49ers
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5. Tim McDonald

Tim McDonald, San Francisco 49ers
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Tim McDonald, current NY Jets defensive backs coach, signed with the 49ers in 1993. Eventually finishing his career with San Francisco, McDonald started a remarkable 111 games in over seven seasons. He ranked top-three on the team in tackles during each season, recorded 20 Interceptions, recovered nine fumbles and scored four Defensive TDs. He was a three-time Pro Bowler at strong safety, and helped the 49ers win their fifth Super Bowl in 1994.

4. Garrison Hearst

Garrison Hearst, San Francisco 49ers
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4. Garrison Hearst

Garrison Hearst, San Francisco 49ers
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One of the most underrated running backs of his time, Garrison Hearst was signed by the 49ers in 1997. He had three 1,000+ yard seasons with San Francisco, including a 1998 season where he had 1,507 yards on the ground and seven touchdowns. Also, in 1998, he added 535 yards receiving and led the NFL with 5.1 yards per carry.

A two-time Pro Bowler and recipient of Comeback POY, Hearst ranks fifth all-time among 49ers rushers with 5,535 yards.

3. Justin Smith

Justin Smith, San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Terada-USA Today Sports

3. Justin Smith

Justin Smith, San Francisco 49ers
Kyle Terada-USA Today Sports

Justin Smith signed with the 49ers in 2008. In six seasons that followed, Smith was selected to five Pro Bowls and played in three consecutive NFC Championship games. Smith is one of the biggest, strongest and toughest defensive lineman to handle in the NFL today. He eats up blockers in the middle of the 49ers' 3-4 defensive set, and truly acts as the glue that holds the unit together. Smith has registered 38.5 career sacks with San Francisco.

2. Deion Sanders

Deion Sanders, San Francisco 49ers
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2. Deion Sanders

Deion Sanders, San Francisco 49ers
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Although he only played one season in San Francisco, Prime-Time was still arguably the best offseason acquisition the team ever made. All Sanders did in 1994 was win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award. He recorded 34 tackles, six interceptions, and led the NFL with 303 interception return yards and three pick-six’s. Sanders also had two interceptions in the 1994 playoffs, including one in San Francisco’s Super Bowl XXIX Championship.

1. Ken Norton Jr.

Ken Norton Jr, San Francisco 49ers
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1. Ken Norton Jr.

Ken Norton Jr, San Francisco 49ers
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Ken Norton Jr. signed with the 49ers in 1994. Equivalent to a quarterback on the wrong side of the ball, Norton played middle-linebacker in San Francisco for seven seasons, and led the team in tackles in all seven. He was a two-time Pro Bowler, and was a First-Team All-Pro selection in 1995. Norton, who retired as a 49er after the 2000 season, ranks third all-time among 49ers in tackles with 551, and is a Super Bowl XXIX Champion.