The offseason is officially here, which means that it’s time to pivot towards what the 49ers will look like in 2023 and beyond.
With free agency looming around the corner, I am going to spend the next few weeks highlighting some players who, I believe, would be a seamless fit on a 49ers team poised to reload and make another run at a championship.
The focus will be on players who fit the mold on the field, as well as being a realistic option when it comes down to finances and how much their services would potentially cost the 49ers on the open market.
I’m going to start with a player who may not be a household name, but is someone who would give the 49ers defense an immediate boost up front. I don’t believe that defensive tackle is a clear position of need, as the 49ers have a group of talented play
Onyemata is a seven-year veteran who has spent his entire NFL career with the New Orleans Saints after being drafted in the fourth round back in 2016. The 30-year-old defensive tackle has been a fixture on a strong Saints defense that has finished as a top ten unit in each of that past two seasons.
Listed at 6’4 300 pounds, the versatile defensive tackle possesses a rare combination of strength and agility that is seldom seen at the position. Onyemata has exceptional pass rushing skills and has recorded double-digit quarterback hits in each of the last four seasons.
Onyemata was a consistent force getting after the quarterback in 2022, registering at least one pressure in 15 of the 17 games he appeared in. That also included five games with three or more pressures. One of which came against the 49ers back in week 12, a game where the offense never was able to find its footing, in large part because of Onyemata.
The 49ers brain trust got a first-hand glimpse of the kind of game wrecking potential Onyemata brings to the table in that game, and I pulled a couple of clips to highlight the set of skills that he would bring to the table for the 49ers.
The first is an interior pressure that shows the raw explosion Onyemata possesses, working inside with a rip move on Aaron Banks before bowling over Jake Brendel and bearing down on Jimmy Garoppolo in the pocket.
That rip move came in handy later in the game as well, as Onyemata was able to utilize it to work back inside against Trent Williams and apply pressure on this throw.
Even more impressive than the pass rushing prowess and lateral agility was the incredible display of strength that Onyemata displayed on this rep, where he doesn’t cede an inch to Williams attempting to run block on this play.
Onyemata would provide a stabilizing presence on the interior that would raise the ceiling of the entire 49ers defensive front. The real question is what kind of money is it going to cost, and it is something the 49ers can fit in their budget as they get set to hand out a lucrative extension to one of their foundational players in Nick Bosa.
2023 was the third and final year of a 3-year 26 million dollar deal that Onyemata inked prior to 2020. While Onyemata is a bit older, his level of play hasn’t shown any signs of falling off anytime soon, which likely negates any discount because he's on the wrong side of 30 at this point.
It’s also worth noting that New Orleans eats a 10 million dollar dead cap if Onyemata is not re-signed by them, which likely will only further incentivize them to make a strong push to retain his services beyond just the stellar play that he put on tape this past season.
The Saints are also in an abysmal cap situation and are linked to a veteran quarterback that could end up eating a significant chunk of whatever space they end up clearing with their cap maneuvers. As much as they may want to keep Onyemata around, they simply might not have the flexibility to do so.
If this is the case, the 49ers should be working tirelessly to bring Onyemata to the Bay Area. An interior duo of Onyemata and Arik Armstead gives the 49ers a formidable one-two punch on the inside that would be among the best in the entire NFL.
This is the kind of move that can tip the scales for a 49ers team that has been knocking at the door of a championship for nearly half of a decade. A tough, dynamic player that could be the final piece of the puzzle on a defensive front that has been the backbone of a top five defense for the last four seasons.