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Melvin Ingram to the 49ers defensive front in free agency?

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The 49ers need to lock down the Leo position in their new defense. Melvin Ingram could be the best option available.

The San Francisco 49ers will switch to a new defense in 2017, going with the 4-3 hybrid style that the Seattle Seahawks have implemented to great success. Gus Bradley took a version of that to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Dan Quinn has done the same with the Atlanta Falcons. Kyle Shanahan’s decision to hire Robert Saleh as defensive coordinator adds a new team using some version of this defense.

One of the premium roles in the scheme is the Leo defensive end. The person in this role is generally going to be the best pass rusher on the team. He can play with his hand in the dirt or standing up, but either way, he is expected to be a disruptive presence.

Ahmad Brooks or Aaron Lynch would likely fill in this role based on the 49ers current personnel, but the team has the cap space and draft picks to try and find a better, more consistent option. Myles Garrett would make a lot of sense, but if the 49ers expect the Cleveland Browns to draft him No. 1, Los Angeles Chargers free agent Melvin Ingram could make sense.

On Friday, Matt Barrows suggested him as an ideal target, being someone who brings a pass-rush presence, veteran leadership along the front line, and some swagger. Earlier in the day, Pro Football Focus looked at one free agent each team should pursue this offseason, and suggested Ingram for the 49ers. They had this to say about Ingram:

Arguably the top pass-rusher in this free-agent class, San Diego's Ingram won't come cheaply. The good news for the 49ers is that they have the second-most cap space of any NFL team. Ingram's 72 total pressures were the sixth most of any edge player in the NFL last season and almost twice that of 49ers starter Ahmad Brooks (38). Ingram also had a top-15 grade against the run at the position and would upgrade an all-time bad unit.

Cap space is not an issue for the 49ers, but they are certainly not the only team that has space to maneuver. I could see Ingram coming out of this pretty well in a bidding war. There is a lot of money for teams to spend, and the new minimum cash spend period begins this year. Crazy money flies around, but I suspect we see even more of it this year. There still won’t be many significant guarantees in base salaries, but we could see a whole lot of signing bonus money paid out next month.