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.
Aaron Lynch is a pass-rushing specialist the San Francisco 49ers originally drafted to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. He quickly established himself as NFL-ready and has already proven to be effective at taking down quarterbacks at the next level.
He was a fifth-round pick, and while I don’t think he would have been a first-round pick if not for his character concerns, those did hurt him in the draft. Questions about his motivation and work ethic were prominent.
Once he joined the 49ers, he found some success, but also wasn’t amazing in coverage or against the run. He also didn’t have a high enough motor to stay on the field for the full game, and there has always been talk that Lynch doesn’t show well in practice. He’s also been banged up here and there in his short career thus far.
This offseason, Lynch’s weight was again an issue. He was reported as overweight, and while that was slightly sensationalized at the time, it was a concern. With 30ish pounds needed to be shaved off to put him at optimal playing weight, it was a definite concern.
That’s especially true given the fact that he’s entering his contract year. A player looking to make a great impression in a contract year shouldn’t let his weight get out of control.
Not only is he looking to make a great impression, he’s learning a new position — LEO in Robert Saleh’s 4-3 defense — and playing for a first-time head coach and first-time defensive coordinator eager to foster a competitive roster and a merit-based depth chart. I’m not saying things aren’t looking good for Lynch, but he’s not going into training camp in the best shape he could be.
Still, he’s incredibly talented and that will account for a whole lot in training camp, the preseason and everything else. I expect Lynch will flourish in his role as the LEO and still believe he can be a pass-rushing force in the 49ers’ defense. But he’s got a long way to go, a lot to prove and no job security beyond this season.
Experience: 3 accrued seasons
Weight: 280 lbs
Lynch signed a four-year contract in line with the rookies drafted in the fifth round. His base salary gets a healthy increase for 2017, the final year of his contract. His base salary is $1.797 million and has a cap hit of $1.846 million.
Why he might improve
He’s 24 years old and has a whole new coaching staff to impress. He’ll be working under some very excited, talented coaches who want nothing more than to bring out the best in him. Lynch’s new position is one that will maximize his skillset and allow him to focus on his strengths and not worry about things like dropping back in coverage with regularity.
Why he might regress
There have always been questions about Lynch’s work ethic and motivation. I personally have not seen them firsthand and am not suggesting that him going down that road again is likely, but it’s always going to hang over his head until he has a truly breakout season. He’s learning a new position and has had no stability in his coaches since joining the NFL, learning a completely new defense once again this season. Competition will be fierce at his position on top of that.
Odds of making the roster
Lynch is a young talent and he’s not going anywhere. He’s playing a new position, but even if that doesn’t go well, there’s no reason for the 49ers to part ways with him. He will be on the roster all season.