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.
Their need for a pass rusher has been the most common offseason thread for the 49ers. Most of the talk has centered around the No. 2 overall pick in the April’s 2019 NFL Draft in one of the strongest EDGE classes we’ve seen in recent memory. Even if the 49ers do target a pass rusher in the first round, their lack of impact players at the position could still warrant a significant investment in free agency. Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers is the NFL’s top pass rush option slated for the open market.
Flowers is coming off the best season of his four-year career in route to the Patriots’ sixth Super Bowl win. Flowers in 2018 racked up 63 total tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, 26 quarterback hits and three forced fumbles. He earned an overall grade of 90.4 from Pro Football Focus, tying for third among edge rushers. Flowers excels against the run, earning an 88.5 grade that also ranks third among pass rushers. His pressure on quarterbacks wasn’t as impressive, earning an 80.1 that was good for 13th.
The 49ers are in dire need of an edge rusher to complement the bevy of first-round investments along the team’s defensive front. Flowers posses the skillset to threaten opposing offenses and pull the focus away from DeForest Buckner, who racked up 12 sacks in 2018 from the interior. The pair would afford coordinator Robert Saleh a dynamic duo in which to build a gameplan around on a weekly basis.
Flowers is guaranteed to sign a contract in free agency that will land him among the NFL’s highest-paid pass rushers. Arizona Cardinals defensive end Chandler Jones signed a five-year, $82.5 million contract in March of 2017 with an annual value of $16.5 million. Khalil Mack’s six-year, $141 million extension with the Chicago Bears has an annual value of $23.5 million. Flowers is likely to fall somewhere between the two.
The 49ers have more than enough cap space to pursue Flowers. Lynch would need to be completely sold though, because there’s a chance Flowers’ demand could make him the highest-paid player on the 49ers roster, with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo earning $19 million in 2019.