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49ers 90-in-90: 2020 is a bounce-back year for Ronald Blair

Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today is edge rusher Ronald Blair

Cleveland Browns v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Ronald Blair improved from 2018 to 2019. In 2018, Blair didn’t start a game for the San Francisco 49ers but played right around 50% of the snaps. He finished the year with 5.5 sacks, but only 12 pressures on 338 pass rushes. In 2019, Blair rushed the passer 112 times and finished with seven pressures and three sacks. Blair also finished with 13 stops, seven fewer than the year before, despite playing 199 total snaps compared to 534 the season prior. Blair went from being a guy that cleans up to a guy that makes plays. He was consistently good against the run and the pass and an ideal backup as there wasn’t a steep drop-off with Blair on the field.

Blair was lost for the season midseason after sacking Russell Wilson with a torn ACL. If Blair didn’t get injured, he would have finished the season with impressive numbers and would likely be on a different team. The Browns were interested, but Blair re-signed with the Niners on a one-year deal worth $2.2 million.

Basic info

Age: 27 (turned 27 on January 21, 2019)

Experience: Four accrued seasons

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 284 lbs

Cap Status

Blair signed a $2.2975 million contract with the 49ers. The entire contract is guaranteed. Blair is a four-year qualifying player and will have a reduced salary cap count. Because the contract is guaranteed, the 49ers would owe $2.2 in dead money if the team releases Blair.

Why he might regress in 2020

It’s difficult to improve when you’re not on the field. Blair’s production could take a step back if he isn’t able to win that third pass-rushing role. Robert Saleh loves him. “If you want to win, put Ronnie in” was a popular quote from Saleh last training camp. Blair may start the season on the PUP list. When you have a team loaded with talent, and you’re not on the field, you leave the door open for someone else to come in and take your reps. The 49ers have a veteran like Kerry Hyder or former CFL player Jonathan Kongbo that could surprise.

Why he might improve in 2020

Blair will be better if he’s healthy. It’s that simple. Blair is a perfect fit for the 49ers defense as he’s one of the few backup rushers that can win his 1-on-1 opportunities. Blair is versatile enough to play all over as well. Shoot, he played a couple of snaps at linebacker in 2019. That tells you how highly Saleh and defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. The players they moved around last year besides Blair? Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Dee Ford. Blair can play. Here is to hoping we see a full season of Blair on a talented defense.