49ers continue tradition of adding former Raiders draft busts

Place kicker Robbie Gould #9 of the San Francisco 49ers interacts with defensive end Clelin Ferrell #99 of the Las Vegas Raiders (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)
Place kicker Robbie Gould #9 of the San Francisco 49ers interacts with defensive end Clelin Ferrell #99 of the Las Vegas Raiders (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images) /

The 49ers have made a small habit of signing former Raiders defensive linemen, and Clelin Ferrell is the latest NFL Draft bust to sign via free agency.

So far, the San Francisco 49ers are 1-of-2 when it comes to turning around the careers of former Las Vegas Raiders defensive linemen.

Back in 2021, the Niners onboarded two former Vegas defensive linemen, Maurice Hurst and Arden Key. Hurst ended up dealing with serious injuries during his two years with San Francisco, and he saw action in a mere two regular-season games.

Key, meanwhile, was much more successful in 2021 and ended up having a career-best 6.5-sack season after flopping with the Raiders after being selected in Round 3 of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Subsequently, Key turned his lone year under 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek into a nice free-agent deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars the following offseason.

So, while Hurst didn’t exactly work out, Key did.

And the Niners are hoping their next Vegas draft bust can turn into a quality addition.

49ers sign another Raiders castoff, Clelin Ferrell, in NFL free agency

San Francisco lost a number of important defensive linemen during the opening wave of NFL free agency in 2023, including EDGE Samson Ebukam, defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway and defensive end Charles Omenihu, all of whom inked deals elsewhere.

Granted, the 49ers made a splash signing by grabbing former Philadephia Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, but the depth is still a notable concern.

The Niners now hope their latest former Raiders lineman, Clelin Ferrell, can have a Key-like season amid new surroundings and a fresh start.

By nearly every account, Ferrell was a complete draft bust for Las Vegas, and there’s no stressing how big a disappointment the former Clemson Tiger has been at the pro level.

Selected in Round 1 at No. 4 overall, Ferrell was supposed to be that immediate-impact player the Raiders were coveting in the same class that San Francisco nabbed All-Pro EDGE Nick Bosa.

Bosa, meanwhile, turned into the Defensive Player of the Year in 2022, whereas Ferrell is a bust.

Over his four years with the Raiders, Ferrell notched a mere 10 sacks and became little more than a rotational player in his last two seasons.

Now, however, the hope will be that Ferrell can resurrect his career in a similar situation as Key did where there won’t be the pressure of having to perform like the No. 4 overall pick from the draft. Plus, with Bosa commanding the bulk of the attention, Ferrell can quietly operate under Kocurek’s tutelage.

Hopefully, the results will generate a net positive for the 49ers in 2023.

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