The San Francisco 49ers elected to punt on edge rushers in the 2018 NFL Draft. Prior to the draft they re-signed Cassius Marsh and signed Jerry Attaochu, who will join Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, Eli Harold, and others in competing to add some oomph to the 49ers pass rush.
On Wednesday, we learned a couple pass rushers could end up hitting the open market a year from now. The Denver Broncos declined the fifth year option on Shane Ray’s contract, while the Jacksonville Jaguars did the same thing with Dante Fowler’s contract. The teams could use the franchise or transition tags on them next year, but if not, they will become unrestricted free agents.
The Broncos spent the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft on N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb. With Von Miller also in place, it is not surprising the team declined Ray’s option. He had eight sacks in 2016, but then missed time last year and finished the year with one sack in eight games.
The Jaguars have seen Yannick Ngakoue emerge as a dominant presence, with eight sacks as a rookie in 2016, and then 12 sacks last year. As a third round pick, he has no fifth year option, so they will look to extend him after this coming season. Fowler had eight sacks, but the $14.2 million due on a fifth year option will be part of what helps pay Ngakoue.
I suspect we see the Jaguars hang on to Fowler for this season, but both he and Ray could end up on the trade block. The 49ers like the talent their young pass rushers bring to the table, but will we see the team potentially get aggressive if they think a solid option is out there? If the 49ers were to make a move for either of Ray or Fowler, they would not get the fifth year option since it was declined. But, they would have a head start on a potential contract extension, and the right to use the franchise or transition tag.
Fowler comes from the Jaguars defense, so there is some familiarity with what Robert Saleh does. And if the 49ers are at all interested in Ray, I imagine John Lynch would have little trouble getting some thoughts on him from Broncos GM John Elway.