Kevin Givens carved out a nice role with the 49ers over the last few years, but he might want to crank things up a bit with him scheduled to be a free agent in 2024.
Veteran defensive tackle Kevin Givens has been quite the find for the San Francisco 49ers.
After going undrafted in 2019 out of Penn State, Givens managed to work his way into a relatively prominent role on the Niners roster the following season when injuries bit head coach Kyle Shanahan's squad in a massive way.
Starting 13 games that year, Givens effectively cemented himself as a quality interior nose tackle who could occupy space in the middle of the defensive line in base formations.
Since then, Givens has mostly retained that role, which has allowed San Francisco to bid farewell to other defenders whose value exceeded what the 49ers could afford, namely fellow defensive tackle D.J. Jones, who departed via NFL free agency in 2022.
Givens, however, is poised to enter his own contract year with the hope of having a career-defining season.
Should he do so in light of the 49ers' high-profile changes this offseason to their D-line, he might take a Jones-like approach and cash in on a hefty contract in 2024.
How would he go about doing so?
Kevin Givens' role with 49ers in 2023, how he can improve
0- and 1-technique nose tackles are still important in today's pass-happy NFL, but they're typically off the field in nickel formations, considering most nose tackles are known more for their run-stopping prowess.
This is primarily where Givens has earned his money up to this point, and he has shown the ability to penetrate the interior with 13 tackles for a loss over three seasons of substantial playing time.
At 6-foot-1 and 285 pounds, Givens is essentially the lone 1-tech player on the Niners roster, and there isn't anyone who'd bump him from primary interior run-stopping duties. Even with the high-profile signing of former Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave during the offseason, Givens should still see approximately 30 percent of San Francisco's defensive snaps this year.
However, if Givens wants to take that next-level leap, he'll want to establish some sort of interior pass rush that would make him far more potent a player than just a run-stopper.
Run-stopping defensive linemen aren't too difficult to find. Interior pass-rushers are.
How much are the 49ers paying Kevin Givens in 2023?
That essentially means Givens is locked in for a spot on the 53-man roster, which is great news for him. He won't have to look over his shoulder at anyone potentially looking to claim his spot.
But the bigger story for him is what could happen in 2024.
Why Kevin Givens thrives in contract year with 49ers
At 26 years old, 2023 is the first season in which Givens can truly make a mark and set himself up nicely for a hefty payday a little less than a year from now.
Granted, that payday might not come from the 49ers. But, if Givens winds up having three-plus sacks on the year while not missing out on his run-stopping prowess, it wouldn't be a shocker to see some team out there willing to dish out $4-plus million per season for him.
The opportunity to have such a season is there, too. While Hargrave is the notable piece, the Niners' D-line interior is relatively thin, at least in terms of depth, which could mean Givens winds up seeing a good chunk of field time over the course of the year.
That's great news for a player in a contract year, and Givens could easily take full advantage of it.
For both him and San Francisco, one can hope that context reaps rewards.