49ers news: Javon Kinlaw running out of time, Dre Greenlaw’s ascent

Javon Kinlaw #99 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Javon Kinlaw #99 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

The 49ers are getting close to deciding whether or not to commit to Javon Kinlaw long term, and recent reports suggest that won’t happen.

Three full seasons have passed, and it’s fairly safe to say the San Francisco 49ers’ top pick from the 2020 NFL Draft, defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, has been a massive disappointment.

Much of it isn’t his fault, per se. Kinlaw has been stricken with knee issues that limited his 2021 campaign to just four games, and similar injury setbacks relegated him to only six games in 2022.

Speaking of 2022, it was supposed to be Kinlaw’s breakout season… finally. The No. 14 overall pick from the 2020 draft was going to live up to his billing, especially since he was supposed to be feeling 100 percent after recovering from knee surgery the previous offseason.

And yet the same discussion points are now surrounding Kinlaw entering year four of his pro career.

Have the Niners run out of patience with him? It seems likely.

49ers unlikely to exercise fifth-year option on Javon Kinlaw

Kinlaw is entering the fourth year of his rookie contract. However, San Francisco has to make a decision this offseason whether or not to pick up the fifth-year option associated with previous first-round draft picks.

If the 49ers were to do so, it’d be at a cost of $10.455 million, according to Over the Cap, and that number would be fully guaranteed.

A piece in The Athletic by Matt Barrows and David Lombardi (h/t 49ers Webzone) speculated that the Niners would do no such thing, rather San Francisco would let Kinlaw’s first four years play out before allowing him to hit free agency in 2024.

It’s possible the 49ers could extend Kinlaw at some point in year four of his rookie deal, but the fact he has played in only 24 regular-season games over three seasons is a problem, and that’s what Barrows and Lombardi pointed out:

"The team is unlikely to pick up his fifth-year option in May, which means he’s heading into the final year of his contract. Kinlaw played just three games last season before his knee began acting up, and the 49ers have to consider a more dependable starting defensive tackle."

If that’s the case, it’ll certainly be a disappointing tenure for such a promising player.

Dre Greenlaw makes Pro Football Focus’ Top 101 list

All-Pro Fred Warner is the unquestioned best linebacker on the Niners roster, and it’s probably safe to say he’s one of the three best in the entire NFL (San Francisco fans know he’s No. 1).

Yet fellow backer Dre Greenlaw is a notable player in his right, too. In fact, this duo played a major role in Pro Football Focus’ pre-2022 rankings that listed the Niners’ linebacker corps as tops in the league heading into the regular season.

Warner continued his mastery last season en route to his second Pro Bowl nomination, but some felt Greenlaw was a massive snub.

If there’s some consolation, Greenlaw made it onto PFF’s Top 101 list for last season, coming in at No. 86 and earning the following analysis:

"Fred Warner is the superstar at linebacker for the 49ers, but Greenlaw has emerged as an excellent player in his own right alongside him. Greenlaw earned above-average PFF grades in every facet of play over the year and made 71 defensive stops including the playoffs, just one behind Warner."

Pretty much.

San Francisco extended Greenlaw at the very start of the regular season, and it’s appearing that money was well spent, and the 49ers have both their linebackers locked up for the next two years.

Next. 2023 mock NFL Draft: 49ers watch rest of NFC get stronger. dark