Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but you get the idea.
When the San Francisco 49ers lost Aldon Smith to suspension(s) and his eventual release by the team, I'm sure I wasn't the only person resigning myself to a terrible pass-rush for years to come. It's not an easy position to build up without spending a high draft pick on an edge rusher, but the Trent Baalke managed to hit big time in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, when he selected Aaron Lynch of South Florida.
While it's also depressing to think about what the 49ers could have had with both Smith and Lynch in their primes, Lynch has done just as well as anybody could ever have hoped for in replacing Smith and giving the 49ers a strong pass rush. The team is currently tasked with figuring out who will be a long-term answer opposite Lynch but I'm unsure if that answer is on the roster.
But Lynch himself guarantees the 49ers will make life tough for opposing quarterbacks next season. He has 12.5 sacks in 30 career games and limited snaps in said games. He also has 61 combined tackles and I haven't noticed any particular deficiency in coverage or anything along those lines.
Lynch is an effective pass-rusher, has a nose for the football and will likely find himself in the Pro Bowl in the near future. He's well on his way to being the best player on the 49ers' roster and there really isn't a whole lot more that needs to be said. If there are any complaints, he needs to get better at finishing plays. He often forced errant throws with his containment, but there were times he didn't go for the kill when I thought he had a for-sure sack lined up.
He is entering year three of his four-year rookie contract. He will earn $600,000 in base salary, and his cap hit will be $649,500. He is likely to earn a raise for his 2017 base salary via the proven performance escalator.
Why he might improve
Lynch is 23 years old, likely has the backing of the coaching staff and is a young stud on a defense that's just begging for players to step up. If Lynch can pick up the new defensive scheme, I expect him to be a featured player on defense.
Why he might regress
Lynch will be playing in his third defensive scheme in three years when he takes the field this season. He's a young player on a defense in flux and there's no guarantee he'll pick up the new scheme quickly. There's no guarantee the new defensive staff even likes him as much as they might like someone else. Eli Harold sure does look like he bulked up and Tank Carradine is a huge question mark at this stage.
Odds of making the roster
Lynch is at a crossroads and I fully expect him to rise to the occasion and completely eliminate any doubt about his talent going forward. But nothing is certain, and the 49ers aren't the most stable team in the league. Still, Lynch is a roster and starter lock as far as I'm concerned.