Defensive tackle is a position the 49ers could use help on in theory, but may not be the best use of resources to bring anyone in. Well, at least splash, big name, expensive signing. The team has DeForest Buckner for one thing. They also have D.J. Jones who gained significant playing time as the season wore on, forcing Earl Mitchell out of a job.
There’s also Solomon Thomas. Once again—he’s not a bust. He’s seeing the field and the 49ers are looking into how to make him a better piece in the defense for 2019. Given all the personal grief Thomas has had to deal with, he has a shot at turning things around.
So what do the 49ers do? As Kyle Shanahan says, if they can help the team, he’ll bring them in. The defensive tackle class has some nice names but positional fit (3-4 vs. 4-3) is something to consider. The first one is at the very top in Ndamukong Suh. He could be a great piece whether it’s a 3-4 or a 4-3 defense. He also isn’t coming to San Francisco. It’s just not happening. Kyle Williams is also technically a free agent from the Buffalo Bills, but he announced his retirement, so cross that name off the list also.
Good potential names are Sheldon Richardson who is finishing up with the Vikings. While he’s been unable to replicate that solid 2014 season he had with the Jets, Richardson could provide ample backup opportunity in case of injuries or if Thomas is declared someone the 49ers want to phase out.
Another name to look at is Haloti Ngata. While he’s getting up there in age, Ngata played with 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek while the two were in Detroit. Given that they have history, it could be an easy transition to put him into a backup role of sorts. Ngata isn’t an answer on the defensive line, but he could be used more of a leadership role to the young players on the line, not unlike Richard Sherman.
Finally, the Los Angeles Chargers have a 4-3 DT that may be worth a workout. Darius Philon had some solid production in 2018 and was one of the better tackles on the Chargers line. The problem is, Philon played well enough that the Chargers could look to put him into more of a starting role, coming to San Francisco might mean sharing more time with Thomas and others. Of course if he won the training camp battles, that would be moot.
Earl Mitchell’s book is not closed on the 49ers either. While he was informed the team would not pick up his 2019 option, all signs point to the team willing to bring him back on a reduced deal. This means he is free to test out the free agent market, and if nothing appealing catches his eye, return to the team.
Here’s your free agent defensive tackles in the league per Over the Cap. I’ve also listed whether they are a 3-4 or a 4-3 DT based on OTC’s spreadsheet. Things could change with franchise tags and deals, but all of the below have contracts expiring. Would you be interested in any of these guys coming to Santa Clara?