49ers depth chart: Breaking down ripple effects of Randy Gregory trade

Randy Gregory already forced one veteran off the Niners roster, but is there more fallout coming soon?
Denver Broncos linebacker Randy Gregory (5)
Denver Broncos linebacker Randy Gregory (5) / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers executed a low-risk, high-reward trade for Randy Gregory, but what does it mean for the other pass-rushers on the roster?

If there was a perfect definition of a low-risk, potentially high-reward midseason move, the San Francisco 49ers would have one in their pre-Week 5 trade with the Denver Broncos for 30-year-old edge Randy Gregory.

Gregory, who spent the last year-plus in Denver, was acquired by the Niners for a sixth-round NFL Draft pick in 2024. The Broncos, meanwhile, will send over their seventh-round pick next year and pay Gregory's guaranteed salary, too, meaning San Francisco will only be on the hook for the veteran's minimum of $1.08 million this season, and there's no guaranteed cash on his deal beginning next season.

That means the 49ers can move on from Gregory whenever they want and without financial ramifications, provided they want to.

Sure, Gregory has plenty of red flags stemming from the early days of his career with the Dallas Cowboys, including multiple suspensions. And for someone who was supposed to be a prolific pass-rusher, 19.5 sacks dating back to 2015 doesn't seems like a lot.

Still, seeing that the Niners want Gregory to supplement the pass rush and not lead it, it's hard not to understand why San Francisco's defense is better now than it was before the trade.

"He fits in perfect," defensive tackle Arik Armstead told The Athletic's David Lombardi. "His speed, he's able to be effective in the pass and run game, and he's going to help us tremendously. Adding in another guy to what we're already doing is going to be amazing. He's a really talented player."

There is fallout, though.

In a corresponding move, the 49ers released their leading sack specialist from the 2020 season, defensive end Kerry Hyder, who had one sack this season but apparently wasn't doing enough to warrant a spot with Gregory in town.

Are there other impacts to be felt by the Niners' pass-rushing depth chart, though?

How Randy Gregory shakes up 49ers pass-rushing depth chart

On the edge, there's only one player who is not at all impacted (from a roster/depth chart point) by the Gregory trade: All-Pro edge Nick Bosa.

In fact, Bosa may benefit, as opposing offensive lines will be seeing an experienced and accomplished veteran opposite the reigning Defensive Player of the Year. Using another cliche, it's time for teams to "pick their poison."

Whether or not Gregory starts, though, is another question. Over the last few seasons, including time with Dallas, the former Nebraska Cornhusker has been more of a rotational player, not a starter.

That might bode well for second-year pro Drake Jackson, who shot out of the gate this season with three sacks in Week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers but has been notably quiet since. Jackson has been vying to start over another veteran, Clelin Ferrell, who has been Bosa's linemate in a first-team capacity since the season began.

Related story: A year later, the Christian McCaffrey trade is the 'steal of steals'

Ferrell, too, could see his role drastically altered by Gregory's presence, particularly if the latter ends up performing well out of the gate.

While less dramatic, Gregory's addition will certainly push off the potential impact rookie defensive end Robert Beal Jr. might have.

Beal is currently on injured reserve with no scheduled point of returning.

As for Gregory? He'll likely start as a situational pass-rusher who can come in on third downs to alleviate pressure off Bosa and Ferrell, depending on snap counts.

Anything above that would be a mere bonus.

Read more from Niner Noise