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5 edge rushers the 49ers could sign to replace Charles Omenihu and Samson Ebukam

Depending on how much the 49ers are willing to spend, there are plenty of options available.

San Francisco 49ers v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The 49ers were expected to lose Samson Ebukam and Charles Omenihu during free agency. That happened Tuesday evening as Ebukam signed with the Colts and Omenihu landed with the Chiefs.

Both edge rushers played the eighth and ninth most snaps on defense last year. San Francisco must replace a total of 1,340 snaps between the two.

Some thought Arden Key would make for a logical replacement, but he’s off to Tennessee. Despite Key no longer being available, there are ample options at the position for the Niners to sign. Even better, most of them are natural fits.

Replacing Omenihu and Ebukam won’t be easy. Samson was one of the best run defenders at his position, and a big reason why the Niners were in so many obvious passing downs. Omenihu blossomed into one of the most productive pass rushers in the league.

But if the 49ers are willing to pay, there’s plenty of talent out there. Here’s a look at five potential edge rushers the 49ers could sign during free agency.

Yannick Ngakoue

The 49ers could effectively swap Ngakoue for Ebukam, although the price tag would be a tad higher. Spotrac projects Ngakoue’s annual salary around $14.8 million. But it doesn’t make much sense to get hung up on contract details, as the 49ers have a wizard in Paraag Marathe writing contracts.

The former Colts edge rusher played 733 snaps last year, where he totaled 12 sacks, nine quarterback hits, and 44 total pressures. Ngakoue doesn’t win as a pass rusher as often as his numbers may suggest, but this would be the best situation Ngakoue would be playing in during his career.

Yannick turns 28 at the end of this month, and has remained relatively healthy since coming into the league in 2016. His run defense has always been a question, so the 49ers might look for a more complete player if they’re forking out big money.

Jadeveon Clowney

Clowney would be more of an Ebukam replacement than Omenihu, given his strength as a run defender. Clowney is an elite edge setter who plays with incredible effort and flashes just enough as a pass rusher to remind you why he went No. 1 overall.

But Clowney does not come without question marks. He was not happy with his role in Cleveland, and that led to him being inactive for the final week of the season. Injuries have prevented Clowney from playing a full season in two of the past three years. The last thing the 49ers need is a player with a significant history.

But if defensive line coach Kris Kocurek can maximize Day 3 talents, what could he do with a player such as Clowney? That may be intriguing enough for the 49ers to find out, even at 30 years old.

Leonard Floyd

Spotrac projects Floyd’s next contract to be around $13.7 million annually. If Floyd is looking to stick it to the Rams twice a year while playing for a dominant defense, the 49ers are a perfect fit.

The 49ers would be wise to sign an edge rusher that was released by their previous team, so it doesn’t count against their comp pick formula. Floyd fits the bill. He’s also a good football player.

The former Ram has been productive for three seasons in a row. Last year may have been his worst of the three statistically, but most of the Rams’ defenders looked out of it during the second half. Floyd’s a competent run defender — he always seems to make plays against San Francisco — who can line up inside if needed as a pass rusher.

He’d be my top option of the three players listed so far. He’s the most complete, with the fewest question marks, and hasn’t missed a game since 2017.

Floyd is also a similar build as Omenihu, where he’s that long, gangly athlete who finds a way to be disruptive even if he doesn’t get home to the quarterback.

Za’Darius Smith

The Vikings signed Marcus Davenport, which could signal Smith’s release — something he requested last week. Smith won’t last long on the market, so the 49ers would have to act quickly.

In the same vein as Floyd, Smith would not count against the Niners’ comp pick formula. Smith will be 31 by the time the regular season starts. He missed all of 2021, but has remained healthy since 2019 outside of that. Last year, Smith was at his best.

Smith was among the league leaders at edge rusher in win, sack, and pressure percentage. Smith wants out of Minnesota due to his contract. It’s his last shot to cash in, and if I’m the 49ers, I make it happen.

Smith is far from a one-trick pony. He had three more run stops than Ebukam, and more than any other free agent edge rusher. He won’t come cheap, but there’s a reason why.

This name may make you cringe, given the result of how everything worked out, but signing Smith would have a Dee Ford level of effect along the 49ers defensive line. He makes everyone else better.

Markus Golden

Arizona released Golden last week, so this is the third player on this list that wouldn’t count against the 49ers comp pick formula. Golden isn’t going to wow you like a Za’Darius Smith, but he’d be productive and effective in the same way Samson Ebukam was for a couple of seasons.

Golden has reached double-digit sacks three times since 2016. With the 49ers, he’d have another opportunity to surpass ten. Golden would be affordable, and is the most plausible, as he could play on early downs while Drake Jackson continues to grow into his body and learn the ropes of the NFL.

Even at 32, Golden is a high effort player that would make for a solid starter. Perhaps above all, he played for Arizona when Steve Wilks was the head coach there in 2018. So, the familiarity might draw the two together again.


Here’s a table I put together using PFF’s win percentage and Sports Info Solution’s sack, quarterback knockdown, and pressure percentage stats:

Comparing each 5 edge rushers

Player Pass rush snaps Win % Sack % QB Knockdown % Pressure %
Player Pass rush snaps Win % Sack % QB Knockdown % Pressure %
Samson Ebukam 437 14.9 1.5 3.2 14.1
Charles Omenihu 475 20.7 1.2 2.8 11.3
Yannick Ngakoue 434 11 2.5 1.5 10.6
Jadeveon Clowney 305 13 0.7 1.1 8
Leonard Floyd 481 14.4 2.1 3.1 12.8
Za'Darius Smith 528 21.8 2.3 3 14.7
Markus Golden 471 15.5 0.6 4 9.2

Ebukam and Omenihu are listed for comparison’s sake. As you can see, Charles was pretty dang good.

Smith is the best player, but he’s yet to be released as of writing this. Floyd may be the best fit, while Golden is probably who the 49ers wind up signing for cap reasons.

If you had to pick, who do you hope the 49ers sign?