The San Francisco 49ers worked to address their pass rush needs this offseason, but they did not make a big splash. The team re-signed Cassius Marsh early in the offseason, and then signed Jeremiah Attaochu when free agency got going. The team drafted Kentavius Street to play defensive end after his ACL tear heals, but otherwise, that was it.
The primary question on the edge will be how Solomon Thomas plays in the LEO role opposite Arik Armstead. When the 49ers move into their nickel, it then becomes a question of which of Marsh, Attaochu, Eli Harold, and maybe Pita Taumoepenu emerges to provide some help on the end.
The 49ers signed Attaochu the first week of free agency, landing the former Los Angeles Chargers edge rusher for one year and $3 million. The deal includes $2.125 million in incentives based on playing time and sack achievements.
The Chargers spent a second round pick on Attaochu back in 2014. He appeared in 11 games as a rookie, finishing with two sacks. He had a solid follow-up season in 2015, getting to the quarterback six times. Injuries and the Chargers insane edge rushing duo limited him the next two seasons. He suffered a high ankle sprain and broken foot in 2016, appearing in eight games. In 2017, he suffered a hamstring injury during the offseason, and was a healthy scratch for much of the regular season behind Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram.
Experience: Four accrued seasons
Weight: 252 lbs
Signed a one-year, $3 million contract, with incentives that could push it to $5.125 million. He received a $1.5 million signing bonus, and has a base salary of $1 million. He can receive a $250,000 workout bonus and up to $250,000 in roster bonus money paid out over the season. The incentives are based on playing time and sacks.
Why he might improve in 2018
He needs to stay healthy, but beyond that, this is the biggest opportunity he’s had in a few years. He was never going to move past Bosa and Ingram with the Chargers. In Santa Clara, he’s competing with Marsh, Harold, and others for opportunities. There is talent there, but it’s nothing like what Bosa and Ingram bring to the table in LA. If he can stay healthy, there is no reason to think he can’t surpass the two total sacks he had the past two combined seasons.
Why he might regress in 2018
There is not a lot of room for regression considering he appeared in four games and had zero sacks last season. Regression would involve a poor showing in training camp that gets him released or traded.
Odds of making the roster
The 49ers did not invest much in the edge rusher positions. Arik Armstead is the big name to watch, but Attaochu is going to get an opportunity with this defense. It’s a defense that plays downhill, rather than making players overthink things before executing. Ideally this means Attaochu can rely on his natural gifts (size, long arms) to get to the quarterback. I listed him as strong bubble, but he’s pretty close to a lock to make the roster.