The San Francisco 49ers needed to add talent at linebacker this offseason. They rolled the dice on former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Kwon Alexander, by signing him to a 4-year, $54 million deal in March. Alexander tore his ACL in Week 7 of 2018. He also has been known to miss tackles at a high rate. All of this has led to quite a bit of backlash in signing Alexander.
Earlier this week, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh updated the injury status on Alexander. The speedy linebacker is expected to be ready for training camp. That was a pleasant surprise. While his tackling is easy to focus on, Alexander brings plenty of value to the table for the 49ers. Fans will love the effort and intensity of Alexander. There will be a noticeable difference in athleticism as well. Alexander complements Fred Warner well. If healthy, the two will be a solid duo.
Experience: 4 accrued seasons
Kwon Alexander signed a four-year, $54 million contract with the 49ers. Alexander received $27.5 million in injury guarantees, $14.25 million of which is guaranteed at signing. The full guarantee is made up of an $8.5 million roster bonus, $4 million signing bonus, and $1.75 million base salary in 2019. If Alexander is on the roster on April 1, 2020, his $11.25 million injuries guaranteed salary will vest to a full guarantee. There are annual per game bonuses of $750,000.
What to expect in 2019
Variance. That’s just who Alexander is. There will be plays where he avoids a block and makes an excellent tackle for loss. Then there will be plays where Alexander is trying to beat the running back to the sideline, and over-pursues, leading to a missed tackle. He’s a fun player that flies around the field with high energy. A little chaotic, but Alexander tends to cause chaos for the offense as well. One area Alexander excels at is blitzing the quarterback. Hopefully, Robert Saleh uses Alexander to his advantage.
One thing to keep an eye on
For as athletic as Alexander is, he tends to struggle in coverage. I’m not sure if it’s an awareness issue, but he’s a little too reactive. Alexander gave up 216 yards in six games last year, and 128 of those were after the catch. He’ll need to put himself in a better position to limit the big play.
Again, it’ll be on Saleh—I know, I know—to have the correct sub-package. Perhaps this is where a player like Dre Greenlaw, or if another defensive back emerges, can step in and help if Alexander shows no improvement in coverage.