Kyle’s update, 11:56 a.m.: The 49ers are re-signing DL Alex Barrett to the practice squad, per Matt Barrows. They’d have to waive one player. I doubt this impacts their decision to bring in a free agent.
The San Francisco 49ers suffered a big blow to their defense as they lost star pass rusher Nick Bosa to a torn ACL for the rest of the season. The team signed Ziggy Ansah as a replacement, but after losing Solomon Thomas to the same injury as Bosa, the Niners are likely to bring in another pass rusher. The team could promote Dion Jordan from the practice squad, but Kentavius Street was called up, despite Dee Ford being out. That tells us what the 49ers think about Jordan.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five free-agent pass rushers the 49ers may look to bring in over the next couple of weeks.
The 38-year-old was still the best pass rusher available. In 198 snaps last season, Wake had 2.5 sacks and eight QB hits. For reference, Arik Armstead had seven QB hits last year on 788 snaps, and that was second on the Niners in 2019. Wake can get after the pass rusher, and that’s all the 49ers would ask of him. Wake could serve as Ford’s replacement in sub-packages, which would allow Armstead to stay inside on obvious passing downs.
Sheard played 579 snaps with the Colts last season. The 31-year-old had 4.5 sacks and four QB hits. Sheard is more of an every-down player than Wake is, as evidenced by Sheard’s 23 stops. He’s not a player that will “wow” you, but Sheard is a veteran that knows how to win as a pass rusher and can hold his own against the run. Sheard is the closest replacement to Bosa (he’s not in the same stratosphere as Bosa talent-wise) on the free-agent market and would be a smart signing for the 49ers.
Matthews’s numbers look good in 2019 as he had eight sacks and seven QB hits. I don’t believe Matthews played as well as those numbers would indicate. I am also unsure if the 49ers would be interested as Matthews has always been more of a stand up outside linebacker than a true defensive end. Would Robert Saleh tailor his defense and allow Matthews to rush from a two-point stance? Matthews always seems to commit a penalty at the worst possible times as well.
The 49ers need all of the help they can get, and Matthews has the pedigree and history of being a good pass rusher. I just don’t believe he’s the best available option.
Suggs finished 2019 with 6.5 sacks and five QB hits. He’s the best run defender on this list, and it’s not particularly close. Suggs had 31 stops last season, but he is as sound as it gets against the run and could help San Francisco right away. I’m not sure if you want to rely on Suggs to play starter snaps, but the 49ers could rotate Suggs with the likes of Kerry Hyder Jr. to keep him fresh.
If you’re looking to add smart players who could help your younger guys develop, Suggs is the answer.
Williams is the youngest by far on this list. The Ravens drafted him in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but never fully cracked their lineup and was released last season. On 58 pass rushes in 2019, PFF credited Williams with five hurries and graded him as a 68.4. Williams was known as an edge rusher who could turn the corner and force the quarterback to step up into the pocket. He may be worth a developmental look if the 49ers aren’t sold on Jordan.