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49ers potential NFL free agent target: Cameron Wake

We’re taking a look at impending free agents the 49ers could target at the start of the league year.

Buffalo Bills v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

General manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan enter into Year 3 at the helm of the San Francisco 49ers. With a slew of roster needs and some $65 million in salary cap space, the 49ers could be among the more active teams in free agency. In this series, we’ll be taking a look at impending free agents that could be on the team’s radar at the start of the league year on March 13.

The 49ers have long been linked to a pass rusher with the No. 2 overall pick. Kentucky’s Josh Allen was the early consensus to San Francisco, but with rumors swirling of Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray going first-overall, Ohio State’s Nick Bosa has picked up steam for the 49ers. Even if the Lynch targets a pass rusher in the draft, the team could still benefit from the stability and development of a veteran presence at the position.

Among the top defenders slated for free agency is Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake. In today’s NFL, there typically won’t be a robust market for a 37-year-old veteran. Wake is the exception. The long-time Dolphins defender is still playing at an elite level and he’ll draw significant interest at the onset of free agency.

In his tenth season, Wake totaled 36 tackles and five tackles for loss. He also added 17 quarterback hits, six sacks and a forced fumble. Wake earned an overall grade of 81.6 in 2018 from Pro Football Focus, ranking 16th out of 113 edge defenders. His 81.1 pass rush grade was even more impressive, placing him among the top 10 at his position. Wake’s 53 total pressures on the season gave him an 18.9% pressure rate, the second-best out of 73 edge defenders.

Wake signed a one-year, $9.1 million contract extension with the Dolphins in 2017. He’s likely to maintain that value, landing a one- or two-year deal with a team that feels they’re a pass rusher away from contention. In spite of a 4-12 record in 2018, the 49ers feel they can compete for a playoff spot with the return of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Wake would prove an effective complement to a young defensive front chalked full of first-round talent and offer the 49ers’ defense a legitimate pass rusher.