49ers free agent No. 4: Nose tackle D.J. Jones
Of all the high-profile 49ers pending free agents out there, the first one to flirt with the strong likelihood of not coming back is five-year pro nose tackle D.J. Jones.
John Lynch said as much when he spoke with NBC Sports Bay Area during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine:
"If his objective is to stay here, he made it really hard. I do think it’s going to be challenging. He’s such a good human being. When I talk about my favorite people in the building I’m not afraid to say D.J. is right at the top of the list. He’s a guy who treats the people behind serving lunch as well as anyone. He’s just a great person. That would be a tough one to lose but there might be that chance."
Jones, the Niners’ sixth-round pick from the 2017 NFL Draft, hasn’t just served as a quality run-stuffer but also a solid 1-technique pass-rusher, assuming a bigger load when they lost second-year pro defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw to season-ending knee surgery last season.
When healthy, Jones makes San Francisco’s defense notably better, and having to turn away from him would mean even more pressure placed on Kinlaw, who hasn’t quite made a big dent after being selected in Round 1 of the 2020 draft.
Nose tackles typically don’t receive top dollar on the open market, which is good, but other defensive-needy teams may be willing to outbid what the 49ers can afford.
Still, the Niners have to try their best here.