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Why the T.Y. McGill signing was the most underrated move of the 49ers offseason

McGill earned his way to a second contract with the 49ers

NFL: International Series-San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers have been active during the first week of the new league year, signing one of the most coveted free agents on the market in Javon Hargrave.

While that was a fantastic addition for many reasons, I’m going to focus on a move involving another defensive lineman who is now under contract with the 49ers for the 2023 season.

On Thursday, the 49ers re-signed defensive tackle T.Y. McGill to a one-year deal that included guaranteed money in the base salary, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. After playing for nine different teams during his NFL career, McGill appears to have found a home on a 49ers team that he was a key contributor on after being signed mid-season last year.

While the 49ers dealt with injuries to Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Hassan Ridgeway, and Kevin Givens, McGill stepped right in and made an immediate contribution to a depleted defensive tackle room.

McGill was tremendous against the run, fortifying an interior that was stretched thin due to the number of injuries that piled up at the position. There was a noticeable burst that McGill displayed with his get off, which was displayed nicely on this tackle for loss back in week 12 vs New Orleans. Nice swim move from McGill to clear the block and bring down Kamara behind the line of scrimmage.

Pro Football Focus has a statistic called “STOPS” which they describe as an offensive gain on first down that is kept to less than 40 percent of the line to gain, less than 50 percent of the line to gain on second down and any third- or fourth-down play kept without a first down or touchdown.

This statistic is a great way to weigh the value of a given tackle, as all tackles are not created equal. A tackle for a short gain to set up third and long is going to be more valuable than a tackle beyond the sticks after a first down has been gained, even though both show up the same in a traditional box score.

By using “STOPS” you can effectively gauge the impact that a player has as a run defender. In his time with the 49ers during the 2022 season, McGill was on the field for a total of 89 snaps when the opposing team ran the football.

McGill recorded a “STOP” on eight of those 89 snaps. That “STOP” rate that falls just shy of 10 percent is an incredible production output for a player who served in the depth role that McGill did last season.

Given how deep the 49ers defensive tackle group is at the moment, it’s realistic to expect that McGill will serve in a rotational role in a group that will be headlined by players like Armstead and Javon Hargrave.

Because of that depth, a player like McGill now has the opportunity to maximize the efficiency of the snaps they do see, while providing the opportunity for critical periods of rest for the blue chip guys at the top of the depth chart.

The ability to have a guy like McGill as a fourth or fifth option gives the 49ers tremendous flexibility over the course of a long and grueling 17 game regular season, and ideally the playoff games you hope to play in that will follow.

While McGill was fantastic against the run, he also has the chops to be a contributor to this vaunted 49ers pass rush. Take a look at this rep from the 49ers Week 17 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. McGill is going to beat the center with a combination of a swipe followed by a swim move that likely would have resulted in a sack had he not been blatantly held.

That swim move that McGill deployed showed up regularly when watching back his tape from last season, both when he was rushing the passer and defending the run. Here is a good example of McGill using that swim move to make a splash play in the backfield on a designed quarterback run.

Bringing back McGill will not be the flashiest move or one that likely caught many fans' attention during the flurry of transactions that have occurred this week. However, this is the kind of move that separates the good teams from the great ones.

With every snap of every game being so crucial in the National Football League, keeping a proven and reliable veteran like McGill around is a major piece in the larger puzzle of building a genuine championship contender.

Glue guys, depth guys, whatever you want to call it, every great team has them, and every team that wants to be a great team needs them. McGill is that kind of player, and his return could end up paying off in a big way for a 49ers team with big aspirations heading into the 2023 season.