49ers continue to build D-line depth by adding Maurice Hurst

Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst #73 of the Las Vegas Raiders (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst #73 of the Las Vegas Raiders (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

Not long after adding former Raiders defensive lineman Arden Key, the 49ers continued to pluck former Raiders D-linemen by signing Maurice Hurst.

The San Francisco 49ers appear set on reinforcing their defensive line depth this offseason, not via the 2021 NFL Draft in which they have nine picks, but rather through the cheaper routes of free agency.

A day ago, the Niners grabbed recently released defensive end Arden Key, whom the Las Vegas Raiders had let go after he underachieved and dealt with injuries.

Then on Thursday, San Francisco brought aboard another former Raiders D-lineman, Maurice Hurst, according to both himself and ESPN’s Field Yates:

The 49ers have only a small number of spots available for their 90-man offseason roster, and they’re likely to focus more on their picks in the NFL Draft a bit more than any cheap free-agent acquisition. So it’s anyone’s guess whether or not players like Key and Hurst will end up making the cut, especially by Week 1, let alone be jettisoned between now and training camp after the bulk of first-year rookies are signed.

If anything, however, it’s pretty clear the Niners are intending to bolster their D-line depth via free agency rather than banking on some mid- or late-round rookie to supply any sort of prowess here.

Earlier this offseason, San Francisco re-signed nose tackle D.J. Jones while also adding former Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Zach Kerr.

Back to those nine draft picks the 49ers have, it’s now a bigger likelihood general manager John Lynch elects to use some of those late-round picks as trade-up ammunition in the wake of him bolstering his D-line depth and not having too many open spots on the roster.

Not a terrible position to be in.

49ers hope they can capitalize on Maurice Hurst’s early hype

Many a draft board back in 2018 pegged the 6-foot-2 Hurst to be a second- or perhaps early third-round pick, although he ended up slipping to the Raiders in Round 5 because of a heart condition.

Hurst was originally seen as a quality interior pass-rusher back at Michigan where he tallied 13.5 sacks over three years as a starter. There were flashes of promise early on, as Hurst managed four sacks his rookie year. But the production fell off in 2019 before Hurst was relegated to more of a situational player last season.

Maurice Hurst Defense & Fumbles Table

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 4/22/2021.

That all said, Hurst will turn 26 years old before the start of the regular season and could still provide some solid depth if need be.

Kyle Posey of Niners Nation highlighted what Hurst could potentially grow into, given his time with the Raiders has now flamed out:

"We’re not talking about a typical fifth-round talent. Hurst’s best season came in 2019 if we’re using Sports Info Solutions total points saved metric. In 477 snaps, Hurst saved 21 points for the Raiders. He had 21 hurries, and 18 QB hits with an average depth of tackle at 1.8.To put 21 points into context, Airk Armstead saved 18 points in 2020. Javon Kinlaw and Givens saved 15 apiece. Hurst is a penetrating, get upfield, and cause chaos type of 3-technique, which is precisely what the 49ers are looking for. They need someone who is disruptive up the middle."

Hurst also ran a sub-5.0 40-yard time at his pro day back in 2018, so he has the speed to go along with faster defensive tackles like Kerr.

And if there’s one thing clear, the Niners are looking to get back that speed element they were sorely lacking amid the multitude of injuries they suffered up front in 2020. Kerr has speed. So does Key.

Again, there’s a long way to go for Hurst to make the 53-man roster. But he’s easily joining a much better situation in San Francisco than he had during his time with Las Vegas.

It’s the epitome of one of those low-risk, potentially high-reward deals the 49ers have engineered so often this offseason.

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