We’re going to look at departures from each position prior to Week 1 of the 2018 season and see how they fared after leaving the San Francisco 49ers. Some players went on to better careers, while others may be out of the league. We won’t be highlighting every transaction, just some notable ones. Today, we look at the defensive line..
The San Francisco 49ers don’t have much as far as departures along the defensive line. Few trades, and little depth have made the position a somewhat eternal position of need. Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams is seen as a possible first round pick this year, so they are still building the interior. Their exterior, in case you haven’t heard, is in dire need of a pass rusher. Beyond injuries, the 49ers have been snake bit at finding a player to take the opposing quarterback down.
Here’s a list of the more notable departures that is in no way complete. Note that with some exceptions, camp bodies, training camp transactions, and roster cuts during the season are not listed for the most part. Most of these as you’ll see are defensive ends.
Note: Elvis Dumervil’s 2018 option was not picked up and he has since retired.
Leger Douzable (DE)
Elvis Dumervil (DE)
Tank Carradine (DE)
Aaron Lynch (DE)
This one is tough. Tough because 49ers fans can’t help but think what could have been for Tank instead of making him gain weight, play out of position, and move all over the place for several years. When he was drafted, Tank was seen as the heir apparent to Justin Smith, but injuries, and the fact he was nothing like Justin Smith derailed everything. Tank was drafted to play 3-4 defensive end, except an end in a 3-4 scheme is built like a defensive tackle. Could they have moved Tank to an outside linebacker role? That’s up to you, but putting him inside proved a mistake.
When Robert Saleh arrived with Kyle Shanahan to install the 4-3 defense, a defense familiar to Tank in college, the damage may have already been done. Tank was not awful at the position, but it wasn’t enough to merit bringing him back for 2018. Tank signed with the Oakland Raiders Instead.
What did he do for the Oakland Raiders? One tackle. That’s his entire stat line for 2018. One tackle. He also played in one game. He was released during the season and was just recently picked up by the Miami Dolphins. We’ll see where this takes him.
If you watched Lynch’s rookie season, you’d have thought the 49ers found a diamond in the rough and a possible replacement for Aldon Smith if the latter kept getting into trouble. Unfortunately, Lynch lacked discipline and came to subsequent training camps overweight and out of shape. His second season was with Eric Mangini (during the Jim Tomsula era) and he was tried in coverage as an outside linebacker. By the time Kyle Shanahan and his squad rolled around, Lynch was a depth piece and an afterthought. He played in seven games and his rookie deal expired at the end of 2017.
Lynch went to Chicago on a one-year deal, reuniting him with Vic Fangio, his defensive coordinator during his rookie season. Used more as a pass rusher, Lynch racked up three sacks and an interception during Chicago’s monstrous defensive performance in 2018. He did this playing in 13 games, starting in three of them.
Lynch’s deal has not been re-upped yet and it appears he’ll be approaching 2019 as a free agent yet again.
The Dumervil decision-making process was an odd one. The 49ers had signed him to a one-year deal in 2017 with a team option for 2018. He led the team with 6.5 sacks in 2017, but the team was ready to move on after the one season.
This might have made more sense if the team had heavily invested in younger talent on the edge. Instead, they extended Cassius Marsh, and Ronald Blair saw a bump in playing time. They combined for 11.0 sacks, to go along with DeForest Buckner’s 12 sacks. I liked what Blair in particular brought to the pass rush, but how much would his development have been stunted with Dumervil in the picture? At the very least there would have been further competition at the position.
Would you like to have any of these defensive linemen back on the team?