SF 49ers must claim former Falcons EDGE Takkarist McKinley

Takkarist McKinley #98 of the Atlanta Falcons (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Takkarist McKinley #98 of the Atlanta Falcons (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

The SF 49ers need edge-rushing help, and newly waived Takkarist McKinley could provide a boost on the cheap. With an added bonus.

The SF 49ers surely understand what the Atlanta Falcons just did with their top pick from the 2017 NFL Draft, EDGE Takkarist McKinley.

McKinley was part of multiple trade rumors leading up to the Nov. 3 deadline. So was former Niners wide receiver Dante Pettis, himself a high-round draft selection, albeit in Round 2 and a year later than McKinley.

San Francisco wasn’t able to move Pettis and subsequently waived him shortly after the deadline passed, and the New York Giants placed a claim on him.

On Monday, the Falcons waived McKinley after not being able to trade him at the deadline, as first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

McKinley, 25 years old, has been something of a disappointment since Atlanta took him 26th overall in the 2017 draft. He did flash promise his rookie and sophomore seasons, combining for a total of 13 sacks between the two years. But just like Atlanta’s defense in 2019 and 2020, McKinley’s prowess and production were wholly lacking, as he finished with a net 4.5 sacks over his final 18 games in a Falcons uniform.

Unlike the SF 49ers, though, Atlanta is heading for what looks to be a widespread rebuild after firing head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff earlier this season. McKinley’s fifth-year option wasn’t picked up anyway, meaning whichever team claiming him on waivers will either want to re-sign him in 2021 or move on once this season comes to a conclusion.

The Niners currently hold the No. 15 waiver claim (reverse order compared to record).

San Francisco is pressed up against the salary cap, yes. As of now, the team has just over $3.7 million in cap space, according to Over the Cap.

But considering what’s left of McKinley’s contract, it wouldn’t be too much to absorb, as ESPN’s Field Yates pointed out:

Considering the SF 49ers are without EDGE Nick Bosa (ACL) for the rest of the year and are likely going to be without fellow edge rusher Dee Ford (back), too, going after some additional pass-rushing help with a young and potentially still-developing McKinley would be a wise move.

Unless the Niners are happy with depth EDGE Kerry Hyder leading the team with 4.5 sacks.

SF 49ers could use a compensatory NFL Draft pick

This is one of those instances where adding McKinley as a half-year rental player actually would make a lot of sense for San Francisco.

For starters, all the SF 49ers would have to do is to place the waiver claim, hope McKinley falls through to No. 15 and then pay out the remainder of his contract this season. Sure, there’s the option of re-signing him once the regular season draws to a close.

But even if the Niners elected not to pursue this route, McKinley’s departure would still help in another way.

San Francisco currently has eight picks in the 2021 NFL Draft, nine if you include a likely fifth-round compensatory selection from the departure of wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to the New Orleans Saints last offseason.

McKinley will earn a modestly decent contract somewhere in 2021, meaning if he were to join the Niners for the final seven games of the regular season and then ink a qualifying deal with another team next year, San Francisco could net some much-needed draft capital in return.

While draft picks don’t hold much water to proven NFL commodities, the 49ers being pressed up against the salary cap already, and with a cap expected to decrease as low as $175 million next year, getting more of those rookie contracts surely would benefit the team in a number of ways.

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Put in the claim, San Francisco. Only good can come from it.