Earlier Friday, it was announced the San Francisco 49ers were exercising wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk’s 5th-year option, an obvious decision. Following the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft, 49ers general manager John Lynch announced another obvious decision: The 49ers are declining defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw’s fifth year option.
During the recap of Day 2 of the 2023 Draft, Lynch gave some background on Kinlaw’s place with the 49ers:
“We won’t [exercise the 5th year option] with Javon. I talked with Javon. Still looking for great things from Javon. Javon’s having an outstanding offseason. He’s in a great place and he’s excited about what’s to come as are we for him.”
The quote “Still looking” probably sums up the entire Javon Kinlaw experience. Kinlaw had flashes of being a great player, but injuries and the unfortunate situation of having to replace an elite defensive lineman in DeForest Buckner has made Kinlaw not live up to his potential or expectations.
Whether Kinlaw is considered a bust or simply underwhelming is up to you. After his promising rookie season, he’s only seen the field 10 games in two seasons. A player that unreliable won’t last in the NFL, let alone the 49ers. It also doesn’t help public opinion when this happens during a playoff game, whether his fault or not.
As stated above, this was an obvious move that could have been seen the moment the 49ers signed Javon Hargrave. John Lynch has been raving about Kinlaw’s offseason, the thing is we heard something similar last year. Yes, last year was about his rehab from knee issues and this year is more on his workouts as a whole, but they both have left a question mark on his status.
Kinlaw could ball out for 2023 and go sign a contract to continue his career, or even stick around with the 49ers. For the 49ers, the move was made because of the aforementioned Hargrave signing. Kinlaw could come back on a more team-friendly deal for depth in 2024 and beyond, but given what’s been seen, it makes little sense to lock in the 5th year option, which is in the neighborhood of $10.5 million per OverTheCap.com.
Of course, we can all be overjoyed if Kinlaw’s injury issues are behind him, he plays a full season and finally reaches his potential. As it stands, it makes little sense to lock in that much money on someone who’s had a difficult time seeing the field.