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Why the 49ers should make a play for free-agent pass rusher Brandon Graham

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GM John Lynch should turn to Brandon Graham to fix his pass-rushing problems.

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NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Philadelphia Eagles James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers finished 2018 with some major roster holes that John Lynch will need to plug this offseason, if the team wants to contend for a playoff spot this upcoming season. One sore spot that even fans can spot from a mile away? Pass rusher.

The hottest free-agent rushers on the market, CowboysDeMarcus Lawrence, TexansJadeveon Clowney and PatriotsTrey Flowers are either out of the 49ers’ price range or unlikely to actually hit the market.

That brings us to the next tier of players, which includes veteran defensive end, Brandon Graham, who’s unlikely to return to the Eagles after spending the first nine years of his career in Philadelphia.

The 30-year old had his best year as a professional in 2017, racking up 9.5 sacks to go along with 47 tackles and two forced fumbles. His play dropped off in 2018, only accounting for 4.0 sacks and 39 tackles. Factoring that in along with his age should help John Lynch in contract negotiations.

Pro Football Focus rated Graham with an 88.1 grade, ranking as the eighth-best edge defender in the NFL. Graham’s strongest ability is his availability, missing only one game since 2012. Per PFF, the former Eagles’ defender has averaged over 750 snaps per season and nearly 70 pressures on opposing quarterbacks per season. Let’s take a look at some of Graham’s impact plays this past season to see what he’s capable of on the field.

Against the Cowboys in a prime time Sunday Night Football game, Graham put together his best performance of the season, filling out the box score with three tackles and 1.5 sacks. Here’s the first sack, as Graham chases quarterback Dak Prescott from the back, after pushing the right tackle right into his lap.

Now on 2nd and 6, Graham comes across the formation to bring down running back Ezekiel Elliot for a short gain. The Eagles’ pass rusher shows off his run-stopping skills, not giving up on the play to bring down the Cowboys’ running back.

Here’s Graham’s second sack of the night, though he shared this with defensive end Chris Long. Lining up on the inside of rusher Michael Bennett, Graham is able to get home on Prescott for another takedown.

Graham shows off his relentless pursuit on this play, chasing down Elliott again. He comes from the opposite side of the formation to bring the running back down for a loss of one.

Now on Monday Night Football, Graham shows off his sacking ability against Redskins’ quarterback Mark Sanchez, bringing him down for a loss of seven yards on the play.

In the same game, the Eagles’ pass rusher is able to create more pressure against the Washington rushing attack, bringing down veteran running back Adrian Peterson for a loss of two yards.