On Tuesday, we discussed the San Francisco 49ers’ worst free-agent signing since 2015. Brian Hoyer deserves mention, you have to bring up Jerrick Mckinnon, too. Ultimately, ESPN’s Nick Wagoner named linebacker Malcolm Smith the best of the worst. Smith became expendable in a matter of practices once rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw got his opportunities.
The 49ers have had their fair share of free-agent signings that have worked out. Weston Richburg and Kwon Alexander have been excellent when healthy. Looking back at the last five free-agent classes for San Francisco, it has to be the Hall of Famer to be the team signed in 2018. That’s who Wagoner went with:
Best free-agent signing: CB Richard Sherman. A torn Achilles suffered in 2017 left some wondering if Sherman’s best football was behind him. Both Sherman and the Niners didn’t think that was the case, as he signed a three-year deal worth up to $39 million in 2018. Sherman was solid in his first season back from the injury in 2018, then was a second-team All-Pro in 2019, posting 61 tackles and three interceptions, along with two more picks in the postseason. All of that while serving as the ideal veteran leader for a young team that broke through to become NFC champions last season. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk also deserves mention here.
l know some will view it as a low bar if your fullback is the best signing your team had in the last five years, but we saw Kyle Shanahan’s vision with a fullback on offense in 2019 and the potential mismatches he can create with Juszczyk on the field. Juice being awesome at everything helps.
As much as Juice has contributed, Sherman is a no-brainer. In his first season with the 49ers, you could tell Sherman was fresh off an Achilles injury. He didn’t have the same burst and movement skills that made him arguably the best cornerback of the 2010s. That changed in 2019. Leading up to training camp, Sherman admitted he played in 2018 at 80%. The 49ers didn’t invest in cornerback heavily last season, electing to upgrade their pass rush and bank on Sherman being healthy. It didn’t take long to see Sherman was “back” He made plays in training camp, and that continued all regular season. Sherman started the season with a pick-six and continued to have success all season. He finished the season as a second-team All-Pro.
Are there any other signings besides Juszczyk and Sherm that deserve honorable mentions?