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49ers potential NFL free agent target: Shaquil Barrett

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

Denver Broncos v New Orleans Saints Photo by Jonathan Bachman/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’ need to invest in pass rush extends beyond the player their likely to select second-overall in April’s NFL Draft. Whether it’s Nick Bosa, Josh Allen or Quinnen Williams, Lynch will likely still target an edge rusher in free agency to bolster the team’s chances of pressuring opposing quarterbacks. What began as an impressive class of pass rushers slated for the open market has steadily been thinned by team’s utilizing the franchise tag. Among the remaining options is Denver linebacker Shaquil Barrett.

Barrett’s intrigue comes from untapped potential. The fifth-year linebacker has played well when given the opportunity, but those became few and far between when the Broncos drafted Bradley Chubb, their fifth overall pick in 2018. Pairing Chubb with veteran Von Miller left very little room for Barrett to have an impact in Denver’s defense. In 2017, Barrett (6-2, 250) earned an 82.6 grade from Pro Football Focus, generating 43 total pressures on 324 pass-rush snaps.

The 49ers hold plenty of opportunity for Barrett to show what he can he can do in a more prominent role. The team’s top edge rusher, Cassius Marsh, totaled 27 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 14 quarterback hits and 5.5 sacks in 2018. Barrett would compete with Marsh for snaps rushing the passer in sub-packages and obvious passing downs, which make up 75% of snaps in today’s NFL.

Barrett’s contract in 2018 was a one-year, restricted free agent tender for $2.9 million. He won’t command the massive deal that is typically afforded to pass rushers that hit free agency. Lynch’s relationship with Broncos general manager John Elway would give some insight as to what to expect from their former pass rusher. Barrett would be a low-risk signing for the 49ers with a good chance of yielding a high reward.