The San Francisco 49ers made four waiver claims last year, hitting big on two, and decently on a third. Starting in July, the team claimed wide receiver Tim Patrick, safety Dexter McCoil, defensive tackle Sheldon Day, and edge rusher Cassius Marsh. Day and Marsh panned out well, McCoil was a special teams option, and Patrick was part of final roster cuts.
Marsh joined the 49ers on November 22, 2017, and appeared in the final six games of the season. Jimmy Garoppolo is the more high profile Patriot to appear in those final six games, but Marsh deserves credit for a solid showing. He registered 10 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. According to Pro Football Focus, he registered an 11.9 percent pressure rate during those games.
Marsh and Day paid out, and the 49ers will be counting on Marsh in particular in 2018. While Day is playing on a defensive line with solid depth, Marsh is part of a group of edge rushers that are slim and did not see much in the way of additions this offseason. The team signed Jeremiah Attaochu, and that’s about it. Instead, the big question is whether Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas are able to bring more in the base, and then Marsh, Attaochu, and Harold can add more in sub-packages.
Age: 25 (turns 26 July 7th)
Experience: 4 accrued seasons
Weight: 245 pounds
Marsh signed a two-year, $7.7 million contract extension this offseason prior to a chance to hit unrestricted free agency. It is believed to include a $2 million roster bonus, $300,000 in per-game roster bonus money each year, and $100,000 in workout bonuses each year. His cap number is $3,481,250 in 2018, and if he is released after June 1st, the 49ers would carry $3.1 million in dead money.
Why he might improve in 2018
He saw an increase in his PFF grade and pressure rate when he joined the 49ers. He had experience in Robert Saleh’s style of defense, but it was still a matter of tossing him in the deep end. He now gets the whole offseason to better learn the playbook and understand his role. The 49ers did not pick up Elvis Dumervil’s option, which could open the door for more opportunities in 2018.
Why he might regress in 2018
The 49ers decision to not pick up Dumervil’s option was a curious decision. Five of the six most frequent lineup combinations that featured Marsh included Dumervil. While Dumervil is on the back end of his career, he was arguably the 49ers most effective pass rusher. Even if Marsh improves or at least maintains last season’s performance, if nobody else steps up sufficiently, it could mean teams focus more on Marsh. I don’t think we see a skill regression for Marsh, but he could struggle without enough additional help in the pass rush.
Odds of making the roster
He’s a lock given the team’s decision not to add much beyond Jeremiah Attaochu. We don’t exactly how much playing time Marsh will get in the nickel and dime packages, but given his performance to close out last year, I suspect we see a fair amount of him. The team did not completely rule out bringing back Dumervil, but barring any surprise additions, Marsh is going to be a big part of this pass rush.