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Why the 49ers should target pass rusher Uchenna Nwosu in free agency?

If the 49ers are looking to bolster their edge depth, they should look no further than Uchenna Nwosu.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

This free-agent class of edge rushers is a strong one — with most looking at Chandler Jones, Von Miller, Haason Reddick, and Derek Barnett as some of the headliners that will be signed quickly when free agency opens later this week.

The 49ers have an interesting decision to make with Samson Ebukam’s contract. The former Ram became a productive edge rusher towards the end of the season, as he became more familiar with Kris Kocurek’s scheme, but he’s also due $8.25M this season. That’s a steep price tag for a player of Ebukam’s caliber.

The catch is that Ebukam’s $5.9M base salary is non-guaranteed this season, and if the 49ers were to release him, they would save $6.5M against the salary cap. They could also extend/restructure the deal to soften the cap hit this season.

San Francisco has one of the NFL’s premier rushers in Nick Bosa but can certainly help him out by adding a capable rusher off the other edge. When they traded for Dee Ford, that was the plan, but his availability and health have really hampered that plan.

Another way for the 49ers to add another complementary piece to the rotation would be to sign Chargers’ Uchenna Nwosu. Los Angeles trading for Khalil Mack (and his large cap hit) sealed Nwosu’s fate with the Chargers.

The 26-year old will be looking for a new home, and Kris Kocurek’s scheme could certainly elevate his play. Nwosu finished with five sacks and 40 pressures last season.

According to PFF’s pass-rushing Productivity, he graded out slightly worse than Chandler Jones and Samson Ebukam but better than Frank Clark.

Sports Info Solutions had Nwosu rated with a pressure percentage of 13 percent. That was higher than Jones, Ebukam, Clark, Haason Reddick, and Von Miller.

Nwosu is also a capable defender against the run and his athleticism can certainly boost the 49ers’ depth at defensive line. I think the high-end veterans like Jones, Miller, Clark, Z’Darius Smith find other homes and the 49ers will be looking to add another complementary piece via free agency.

The former Trojan feels similar to Ebukam last season — an athletic edge defender that has untapped potential and can certainly thrive in this defensive scheme. He doesn’t quite have the pass-rushing cache and the 49ers will be betting on upside. There’s some risk, but it could definitely be worth the reward.