49ers should target this cheap free-agent pass-rusher

Melvin Ingram #24 of the Kansas City Chiefs (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
Melvin Ingram #24 of the Kansas City Chiefs (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) /

The 49ers could stand to reinforce their pass-rushing depth in 2022, and there’s one particular free agent who might be attractive this offseason.

The San Francisco 49ers have to feel pretty good about registering 48 regular-season sacks over the course of 2021, a number that tied for fifth best in the league.

And while Pro Bowl EDGE Nick Bosa recorded 15.5 of those, the Niners managed to get quality contributions from some of their other defensive linemen, too, namely defensive tackle Arik Armstead and defensive end Arden Key.

However, the need to reinforce the pass rush this offseason will be one of the many priorities general manager John Lynch and Co. will have to keep San Francisco in Super Bowl contention.

Key, who had a career-best 6.5 sacks last season, is scheduled to hit NFL free agency this spring, and he could easily be looking for a sizable payout, one which the 49ers may not be able to afford. With an estimated $20 million in available cap space, which includes the Niners parting ways with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Lynch might not be able to retain Key if the latter is looking for a hefty pay increase.

Even if San Francisco is able to retain Key, he’s more of an inside rushing presence, and the team is poised to lose fellow EDGEs Dee Ford and Jordan Willis this offseason, too, meaning a re-stockpiling of pass-rushing talent is on the table.

There’s one option the 49ers could nevertheless pursue.

49ers should go after Melvin Ingram as a cheap pass-rushing option

At this stage in his career, Kansas City Chiefs EDGE Melvin Ingram is no longer the featured player in any team’s pass-rushing plans. Turning 33 years old this spring, Ingram was unceremoniously jettisoned from the Pittsburgh Steelers by the way of a trade over to KC but became a vital rotational piece to the Chiefs’ defensive resurgence during the second half of 2021.

Sure, statistically speaking, Ingram didn’t wow in terms of his production, notching only two sacks during the regular season but adding two more during the playoffs. But it was his rotational abilities and general disrupting of the pocket that made him a force.

Interestingly enough, Pro Football Focus actually awarded Ingram with a 6.5 pass-rush productivity mark over the course of his Chiefs tenure, the highest for Kansas City among its edge rushers.

Ingram might not be the same caliber of player he was during his heyday years with the Los Angeles Chargers. But it’s important to acknowledge the fact the Niners operate a similar defensive system the Bolts employ and where Ingram had his most success.

And he’s only two seasons removed from a 2019 Pro Bowl campaign, too.

Melvin Ingram wouldn’t cost 49ers much in NFL free agency

San Francisco can rely on Bosa maintaining his form in 2022, and it can hope a player like Key returns and/or fellow EDGE Samson Ebukam becomes a more vital cog in its defense.

That said, smart teams never stop trying to reinforce the pass rush, and someone like Ingram could fill a much-needed depth void.

Read More: 5 under-the-radar free agents 49ers should target in 2022

Even modest second-tier pass-rushers can cost a lot on the open market, potentially in the range of $6 million to $8 million, annually. But the 2022 edge-rushing market has plenty of B-team options, and it’s likely the interest Ingram draws in NFL free agency will be modest. While Over the Cap valued Ingram’s 2021 contributions at just over $5.3 million, it wouldn’t be shocking to see a team like the 49ers sign him to a friendly deal in the range of one year and $3 million.

Especially with the strong chance of competing for a Super Bowl right now amid a weak NFC.

A proposed one-year deal worth $3 million would help secure the Niners’ pass-rushing depth needs while adding a veteran presence who wouldn’t necessarily need to shoulder the load of getting to opposing quarterbacks.

Next. 49ers' 15 best free-agent acquisitions of all time. dark