Aside from their spectacular 2019 season that ended in losing Super Bowl 54, the San Francisco 49ers have had several rough years. But they've also had some talented, long-tenured players who are among the highest paid in franchise history.
Steve Young, who led the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 1995, ranks sixth all time in 49ers earnings. However, the 49ers have awarded most of their richest contracts ever in the past decade. Here are the five players who have earned the most as members of the 49ers:
5. Justin Smith
In 2008, Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Justin Smith signed a six-year, $45 million deal with San Francisco that included an $11 million signing bonus. He made the Pro Bowl five seasons in a row from 2009 to 2013. In all, he made $49,850,000 with the 49ers.
Smith was remarkably consistent throughout his career, tallying 43.5 sacks in his first seven years with the Bengals and another 43.5 in his seven years with the 49ers, before retiring in 2015.
4. Alex Smith
The 49ers took Alex Smith with the No. 1 pick in 2005 -- passing on Aaron Rodgers, who later went to the Green Bay Packers at No. 24 overall. Smith's best season in San Francisco was 2011, when he threw for 3,144 yards with 17 touchdowns and only four interceptions. But in 2012, the 49ers turned to Colin Kaepernick after Smith suffered a concussion, and he never started another game in San Francisco.
Smith made over $189 million in his career, $50,475,000 of it with the 49ers. After returning from a gruesome leg injury and winning the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year award with the Washington Football Team, he announced his retirement this April.
3. Vernon Davis
Davis was the 49ers’ first-round pick in 2006, selected at No. 6 overall out of Maryland. Coming off 965 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns in 2009, Davis signed a five-year, $37 million contract extension that made him the highest-paid tight end in the league at the time. While 2009 wound up being his most productive season, he had another Pro Bowl season in 2013 with 850 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.
In 2015, the 49ers traded Davis to the Denver Broncos. In all, he earned $59,091,405 over his nine-plus seasons in San Francisco.
2. Joe Staley
Left tackles may not be household names like the quarterbacks they protect, but they are some of the most valuable -- and highest-paid -- players in the league. Joe Staley is no exception.
Staley spent his entire career with the 49ers, protecting Alex Smith, Kaepernick, Jimmy Garoppolo and others as one of the league's best left tackles from 2007 to 2019. He earned $85,407,638 over that stretch, when the team had a lot of turnover and he was one of few constants.
1. Jimmy Garoppolo
Jimmy Garoppolo began his career in New England as Tom Brady’s backup. The Patriots traded him to the 49ers for a second-round draft pick during the 2017 season. Leading the 49ers to five straight wins to finish the season, Jimmy G earned a massive five-year contract in February 2018. Worth $137.5 million over five years, it was the largest contract ever on an annual basis at the time.
Since then, of course, Garoppolo’s highs (Super Bowl 54 finalist) and lows (multiple injuries) have been well documented. Despite speculation that the 49ers would trade Garoppolo back to the Patriots after making a deal for the No. 3 pick in the 2021 draft, nothing materialized -- and the cap hit of his lucrative contract was a big reason why.
Jimmy G will now likely play out the fourth year of that contract mentoring and looking over his shoulder at No. 3 pick Trey Lance.
All contract details provided by Spotrac.