The 49ers made something of a surprise move Wednesday, grabbing veteran free-agent Robert Nkemdiche, who joins a crowded defensive line.
The bulk of notable additions to the San Francisco 49ers’ offseason roster have already taken place months ago, first via the opening waves of free agency and then in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Yet there are always the inevitable tweaks and changes that’ll occur thereafter, going through training camp, the preseason and all the way through the year.
On Wednesday, speculative news broke the Niners were making a low-risk move by grabbing veteran defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche off the NFL free agency scrap heap, first reported by @TheSFNiners, whose pulse on local stories regarding the team tends to be pretty close:
Nkemdiche, who’ll turn 28 years old early this upcoming season, joined the NFL as a first-round draft pick of the Arizona Cardinals back in 2016 but struggled to carve out a legitimate role with the Red Birds and was waived prior to the 2019 season.
|3 yr||3 yr||ARI||27||6||0||2||2||1||21||1||4.5||44||26||18||10||10|
|1 yr||1 yr||MIA||2||0||0.0|
|1 yr||1 yr||SEA||9||0||0||1||0.0||15||7||8||0||1|
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
San Francisco already has a stacked defensive line, especially after adding two more rookies via the draft, EDGE Drake Jackson and defensive tackle Kalia Davis, while also acquiring other veteran defensive ends like Kerry Hyder Jr. and Kemoko Turay.
Despite losing nose tackle D.J. Jones to the Denver Broncos in NFL free agency earlier this offseason, the 49ers still have a deep D-line.
What does that mean for Nkemdiche moving forward?
Why did the 49ers sign Robert Nkemdiche?
There have been no official announcements from the Niners, at least not at the time of this writing. But those you’d likely hear from general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan would likely revolve around the inevitable “we like what he brings to a defense” or “he can help us out in a number of ways.”
Not exactly revealing.
Nkemdiche, 6-foot-3 and 296 pounds, cut weight in recent seasons to be more athletic but still projects as a solid nose tackle with an above-average run-stopping pedigree.
However, San Francisco already projects to start defensive tackles Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw on the D-line interior, and while Davis might not be 100 percent by the start of the season in the wake of a torn ACL suffered last year, the 49ers still have plenty of other on-roster options available.
While Nkemdiche doesn’t threaten Kinlaw or Armstead whatsoever for playing time, it’s possible the Niners see the former Mississippi defensive tackle as an upgrade over some of those reserve pieces.
Chances Robert Nkemdiche makes 49ers’ 53-man roster
Currently, the exact financials of Nkemdiche’s one-year contract with San Francisco aren’t known. According to Over the Cap, he earned just over $700,000 with the Seattle Seahawks a season ago, fluctuating on and off the practice squad over the course of 2021.
It’s probably safe to assume he signed a contract in the range of the veteran’s minimum, probably something like $990,000 with zero guarantees.
That could, at least in theory, make Nkemdiche little more than a training-camp invitee who’ll have the chance to compete with Hyder, Kevin Givens, Maurice Hurst, Hassan Ridgeway and others for a spot on the depth chart.
A chance might be all Nkemdiche needs, and he’d probably enjoy the tutelage of the 49ers’ excellent D-line coach, Kris Kocurek.
But whether or not that translates into a roster spot once the regular season rolls around is anyone’s guess.
It’s not as if the Niners lack bodies at this position.