On November 2nd, 2021, the San Francisco 49ers took a flier at the trade deadline when they sent a 2023 sixth-round pick to the Houston Texans in exchange for 24-year-old defensive end Charles Omenihu.
Omenihu was a fifth-round pick out of the University of Texas, who had amassed seven sacks and a pressure rate of 9 percent in his two and half seasons in the NFL before being acquired by the 49ers.
However, the 49ers front office saw potential there and were willing to bet on the combination of Omenihu’s athletic traits and their own coaching and development, which had a stellar track record with defensive linemen in particular.
Nearly a year later, Omenihu finds himself entrenched in a pivotal role on the best defense in football, while the 49ers brass is now faced with a serious decision to make with Omenihu slated to hit free agency this upcoming offseason.
Truthfully, there shouldn’t be much of a decision to be made. However, the 49ers brass finding a way to lock Omenihu up for the next few years should be a no-brainer, and here are a few of the reasons why.
For starters, the 49ers are in a position to get what will likely be the best years of Omenihu’s career in his mid to late twenties. Omenihu is just 25 years old and will be turning 26 just prior to the start of the 2023 season.
That stretch between 26-29 typically are the prime years for a player at Omenihu’s position. The combination of that prime window and additional experience within the 49ers scheme create a recipe for a game-breaking player on the front seven.
The development and the environment have clearly been working, as the 9 percent pressure rate Omenihu posted during his first two seasons in Houston has jumped up to 14.3 percent in the 18 games he has played for the 49ers over the last 11 months or so.
Omenihu has also proved to be a dependable commodity in big games, recording a 17.3 percent pressure rate in three playoff games for the 49ers last season. That includes a two-sack performance in Dallas that saw Omenihu regularly win against one of the most talented left tackles of this generation in, Tyron Smith.
However, the primary selling point is Omenihu’s versatility and how that positional flexibility gives the 49ers' defense an invaluable chess piece on along their defensive line. Omenihu is listed at 6’5 280 pounds, and he appears to be even larger than that in person.
Due to the massive frame that is combined with good speed and the skillset of a traditional edge rusher, the 49ers have been able to deploy Omenihu on the interior, where he has wreaked havoc on guards and centers in passing situations.
Omenihu is big enough not to get pushed around while also possessing the bend and technical skills of a traditional edge rusher which interior offensive linemen are not used to dealing with. Here is a great example of that on a rep against pro bowl guard Gabe Jackson during the 49ers' week two win over the Seahawks.
Charles Omenihu beats Gabe Jackson with a scissor swipe into a rip move to get into the backfield and pressure Geno Smith into airmailing this throw over the head of Marquise Goodwin pic.twitter.com/3pbj0gInQn— Jordan Elliott (@splash_cousin) September 21, 2022
Here are a couple more great examples of the stress that Omenihu and his diverse skill set puts on opposing offensive lines. I’m going to show to cut-ups, one from week four and one from week five. Both are going to have Omenihu lined up as a 4-technique opposite of the right tackle in a wide nine front.
The first came against the Rams, with Omenihu attacking the outside shoulder of the right guard with a scissor swipe before going to a rip move to burst into the backfield and force an errant throw from Matthew Stafford that was nearly picked off.
You can see the refined pass-rushing technique on full display and the right guard struggling with the initial scissor swipe move, which is not something interior linemen face with regularity.
Now lets fast forward one week to Carolina. Once again, Omenihu is going to be lined up as a 4 technique opposite the right tackle, but this time with a different plan of attack once the ball is snapped.
On this rep, Omenihu is going to attack the center rather than the guard. You can see the right guard immediately commit to the B gap, where Omenihu had attacked from the same position the week prior. That left Omenihu one-on-one with the center, and let’s just say it didn’t end well for him.
Quickly going back to that week 4 win over the Rams, Omenihu had another game-changing pressure that all but sealed the victory. This time Omenihu was lined up farther inside between the inside shoulder of the right guard and the outside shoulder of the center.
As valuable as Omenihu has been on the interior, he also has been fantastic working off the edge as well. One of the few bright spots in Atlanta was this sack Omenihu got on Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota with a textbook scissor swipe to beat the right tackle.
Textbook scissor swipe by Charles Omenihu— Jordan Elliott (@splash_cousin) October 17, 2022
Omenihu has recorded a sack in each of the last three games and has recorded more pressures this season (19) than anyone on the 49ers not named Nick Bosa
It’s time to start talking extension/bringing Omenihu back in 2023 and beyond pic.twitter.com/VxNU75RSyx
Omenihu has recorded a sack in each of the last three games and has recorded a pressure in all six of the games the 49ers have played this season. He has recorded 19 pressures this season, which is more than anyone else on the 49ers not named Nick Bosa.
Omenihu is dynamic, young, and likely still hasn’t come close to peaking. But, even without an extension in place, the 49ers have to feel great about the return they got for a day three pick in a class that was 18 months out from when the deal was made.
As of now, this has been a good trade for the 49ers. By locking up Omenihu for the foreseeable future and ensuring his prime years are spent in a 49ers uniform, the 49ers have a chance to turn a good trade into a transcendent one.