The San Francisco 49ers signed Earl Mitchell to a four-year, $16 million contract earlier this week, adding a starting option at defensive tackle in their base defense. The 49ers run defense was miserable last season, and beefing up the defensive front is critical this offseason.
Mitchell signed a four-year deal, but it seems relatively moderately priced. If the 49ers decide at some point he is not the answer, it likely will not be a significant cap hit to get out of the deal. However, the question heading into free agency and the 2017 NFL Draft is how much more they will add to the interior of their defensive line.
I updated our 2017 NFL mock draft database, and with 28 mock drafts, five have the 49ers adding interior defensive line help. All five have the 49ers selecting Alabama defensive tackle Jonathan Allen. There had been some thought he could go No. 1, but Myles Garrett has emerged as the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Assuming Garrett goes to the Cleveland Browns, the question becomes what the 49ers do at No. 2. North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky is regularly mentioned, with 14 of our 28 mock drafts selecting him. After Allen’s five, Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster is next with three, and then Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson with two.
The 49ers have some options at No. 2, and could always trade down, but does the signing of Mitchell likely preclude the drafting of Jonathan Allen? Or do you think it has no impact if Allen is the next best option on the table? This is not to say that Mitchell will be “better” than picking Allen, but the investment in Mitchell simply has me wondering what exactly this means for interior defensive line help. The 49ers defensive front as it is currently situation would likely include Mitchell and DeForest Buckner at DT, and Arik Armstead and somebody else at DE. Then, when the 49ers move into the nickel, Armstead would likely kick inside with Buckner, and the 49ers would have a pair of edge rushers (likely including whomever is the Leo in the base).
What does the Mitchell signing mean for the 49ers and someone like Jonathan Allen, or any other notable defensive tackle?