I know plenty of us check out Matt Maiocco's blog over at the Press Democrat. If you have you've seen the two posts I'm about to discuss and if you haven't they're definitely worth checking out. MM spent yesterday and today discussing the best and worst free agent signings by the 49ers since free agency began in its relatively current form in 1993. Looking over that list brought back a wave of memories, both good and bad. One interesting thing to note is there were a lot more good signings than bad signings. I'm curious what everyone here thinks about that and if it's accurate to believe. While it would be nice to go back down memory lane and consider all the great signings (Garcia, McDonald, Hearst, Plummer, etc...) I'm feeling a bit masochistic today. Let's just go back and jam a fork in our eye thinking about the worst free agent signings over the last 15 years.
Worst Free Agent Signings
MM goes into quality detail on each guy but has them ranked as:
- Lawrence Phillips
- Gabe Wilkins
- Antonio Langham
- Mark McMillian
- Johnny Johnson
- Antonio Bryant
I can honestly say I don't really remember the McMillian or Johnson signings. It appears neither lasted a single season (McMillian done in 6 games, Johnson not even lasting through training camp). So let's go to the other guys that I know elicit some strong reactions. I know that I was convinced every single one of them was going to be the next great thing for the 49ers and lead to Super Bowl #6. Instead, they washed out and disappointed.
Lawrence Phillips: I'll admit it...I was quite excited about the Phillips signing. As a fan of UNLV I've always enjoyed the team's that brought a certain edge to the field of play. Phillips was coming off an MVP-caliber season in NFL Europe in an attempt to rehabilitate his image and get a shot in the NFL. After signing with the 49ers, even his good times were overshadowed by problems. In week 3 against the Cardinals, Phillips rushed 9 times for 102 yards and a touchdown. Of course MM points his mess up in picking up a blitz that led to Aeneas Williams ending Steve Young's career. I think it's safe to say that Phillips will not be getting Christmas cards from 49ers fans while serving his prison sentence for assault.
Gabe Wilkins: I remember being excited about signing Wilkins to add to the pass rush. I also remember the uselessness he brought because of a bad knee. Even when he was starting games his second season he didn't do jack.
Antonio Langham: I honestly can't remember how I felt about signing Langham. That '98 49ers team went 12-4, managed to squeak by the Packers and then get upended by Atlanta. Wilkins was hurt for that postseason and I don't recall getting much out of Langham. A year later, Langham was back in Cleveland thanks to an expansion draft deal with former 49ers consigliere Carmen Policy.
As bad a guy as Lawrence Phillips clearly is, I don't know if he should be considered the worst free agent signing of the past 15 years. While people got excited about the talent, he already had an established history of being a crazy screw-up. The Langham signing sucked because of the contract given out, but according to Maiocco, the expansion draft deal saved a salary cap hit. So I think I'll say the worst signing would be Gabe Wilkins. MM says he took less to play in San Francisco but considering it was still 5 years, $20 million and he was gone after two years, the hurtin lasted awhile thanks to his contribution to the dead money pool in the Bay. So count my vote as being one for Gabe Wilkins. Congratulations Gabe. I'm sure you're still counting that 49er cash.