With NFL free agency fast approaching for the San Francisco 49ers, Niner Noise takes a look at a former Super Bowl hero who could solidify their biggest weakness.
The San Francisco 49ers need edge rushers. If this is a shock to you, I am not sure what football team you have been watching for the past two years. In fact, the only productive edge rusher the Niners had under the Kyle Shanahan-John Lynch regime is Elvis Dumervil, the star edge rusher beyond his prime when he joined.
Dumervil still had 6.5 sacks back in 2017, a testament to his incredible ability. But when a player who retires the year after he plays for you for a season leads your team in sacks, there is an issue.
As with most teams (except, hopefully, the Arizona Cardinals), you can never have enough edge rushers. Rotations like that of the Jacksonville Jaguars, or to a lesser extent, the New England Patriots, are king in the new NFL with high-paced offense and constant passing.
With that in mind, it makes perfect sense why the 49ers should try and acquire veteran defensive end Brandon Graham, regardless of whatever else they choose to do.
Graham, Super Bowl hero for the Philadelphia Eagles for his strip-sack of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, will turn 31 years old this year, meaning that his prime will be ending that soon. That, a gluttony of pass-rushers and cap space are why Jimmy Kempski of Philly Voice (h/t Clutch Sports) predicts Graham not staying with the Eagles.
Now, the 49ers will likely be in the mix for other pass-rushers should they hit the open market, like Demarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney and Dee Ford, for example. They also could potentially select Nick Bosa or Josh Allen, or trade down and select Jachai Polite or Clelin Ferrell in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft this April.
All that said, the Niners should still consider giving Brandon Graham a two-year deal worth around $16 million.
Cap-wise, the move barely puts a dent in the 49ers’ massive buildup. With around $62 million predicted right now by Over the Cap, and many more moves to come, they could easily handle his contract.
But, what would the Niners be getting in Brandon Graham? Well, although his counting stats went down, Pro Football Focus still ranked him as the fifth-best DE in the game, with a grade of 88.1. Those counting stats, with four sacks and a forced fumble, would still provide an added boost to the Niner defensive line.
Apart from his PFF grade, adding good players when possible is never a bad thing. A major issue with free agency, in general, is the idea that a player needs to be a bargain or value to be signed. However, with a team like the 49ers, that is not the case. As John Middleton, owner of MLB’s Philadelphia Phillies, said, “We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.”
Sometimes adding a good player at an expensive cost can help your team. With San Francisco’s Paraag Marathe designing contracts, the 49ers will never be stuck in a terrible situation. Even if they can draft Bosa or sign Clowney, having Graham on the team will not hurt them.
Finally, Brandon Graham provides the 49ers with what they really need most: help for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. Buckner, the first-time Pro Bowler and bona fide star DT, had a phenomenal year with 12.5 sacks, even more impressive considering how he was facing double-teams all the time. As has been extensively covered anytime anyone talks about edge rushers and the 49ers, pressure from the edge collapses the pocket, forcing QBs to step right into the waiting arms of Buckner.
There is no wrong reason for signing Graham, and he is a player Niner fans should look very closely too.
If you have someone else in mind, hit up the comment section with your thoughts!