No position on the 49ers could be affected more by free agency than the defensive line. Of the 25 players San Francisco is at risk of losing in free agency, seven of them play along the defensive line:
- Samson Ebukam
- Kevin Givens (RFA)
- Maurice Hurst
- Kerry Hyder
- Charles Omenihu
- Hassan Ridgeway
- Jordan Willis
Those seven combined to play 2,729 snaps this season, with Ebukam and Omenihu playing the second and third-most snaps on the line, behind only Nick Bosa. With not just the quality of players potentially lost, but the quantity as well, how could the 49ers fill this need?
Of all the needs the 49ers have, the line could be where they try to make a splash move in free agency. It’s a position the 49ers have been able to find short-term and low-cost solutions to produce, but at some point, a bigger name could become a necessity.
Names like Yannick Ngakoue and Marcus Davenport are available on the edge and Dre’Mont Jones and David Onyemata on the interior, the 49ers could have their options to choose from in this market.
The 49ers will also try to retain one, if not both, of Ebukam and Omenihu. Ebukam finished second on the 49ers with a career-high five sacks. Omenihu wound up third, with 4.5 sacks, with the ability to play on the interior of the line as well.
Even if the 49ers sign an edge rusher to play second to play across, both Ebukam and Omenihu turned out to be a critical rotational piece. Ebukam would be the tougher of the two to retain, with a projected market value of $7.7 million average annual salary, according to Spotrac.
From there, the 49ers would need to solve the depth on the line, which is something they’ve excelled in the past. San Francisco will likely look to retain at least a couple more of their free agents to help fill the room.
Ridgeway was solid against the run before his pectoral injury, with Willis and Hyder offering versatility playing both the edge and interior.
The 49ers also have ten picks in April’s draft, with plenty of options to take after using picks on Drake Jackson and Kalia Davis to shore up the line last year.
There might be potential to lose more players than they used to, but the 49ers have shown they can build a more than capable defensive line. This offseason might be a little tougher than years past because of the potential turnover, but there is room to improve with plenty of options on the table.