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49ers’ top-ranked 2022 defense managed to get even better this offseason

This team is going to be a problem for opponents once again.

With the 2023 season set to kick off soon, the San Francisco 49ers have a lot of new faces ready to contribute toward their pursuit of a championship.

DraftKings Sportsbook has the 49ers listed with the fourth-best odds to win the upcoming Super Bowl at +1000. Below, I’ve highlighted four key additions and four key departures to help paint a picture of where the roster currently stands and why those odds are what they are.

Roster additions:

The 49ers were active in free agency during the offseason, adding difference makers on both sides of the ball. I will highlight a few of these signings and how these players project to fit onto the 49ers roster while pursuing the ever-elusive sixth Lombardi.

Javon Hargrave, defensive tackle

Hargrave is the biggest get in free agency for the 49ers since Richard Sherman signed with the team in 2018. As important as Sherman was to the culture this team has built, Hargrave has a realistic shot of making a larger impact that would be more on par with the addition of Justin Smith way back when.

He is coming off a season where he was one of the most impactful interior defensive linemen in the entire NFL, playing a key role on the Philadelphia Eagles’ run to the Super Bowl. The 66 pressures he recorded ranked third among interior defensive linemen in the NFL, while his 11 sacks ranked fourth.

Adding Hargrave to a defense that finished last season as the top-ranked unit in the league is the kind of franchise-altering move that could prove to be the difference between securing a championship rather than falling short.

Pairing him on the interior with Arik Armstead not only forms arguably the best one-two punch of interior pass rushers in the league but also creates more opportunities for Nick Bosa and whoever is playing opposite him at the other edge position.

Isaiah Oliver, defensive back

The 49ers fortified their secondary by signing the former Atlanta Falcon to a two-year, $6.75 million contract. Oliver is a versatile defensive back with plus physical traits and the ability to play inside or outside.

In the 2022 season, 75 percent of Olivers’ defensive snaps came in the slot, likely where he will be utilized within the 49ers’ defense. A reliable, proven veteran who the 49ers were high on entering the league, Oliver provides a high-ceiling option to help cement a back end that lost one of its most important pieces in free agency.

Clellin Ferrell, EDGE

After being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2019 draft, Ferrell wasn’t able to live up to the lofty expectations that come with being selected that high. However, he has still shown the ability to be a capable rotation piece on an NFL defensive line.

He joined the 49ers on a one-year, $2.5 million deal, giving him a chance to revamp his stock like many players in a similar situation in San Francisco before him. It also provides the 49ers a trustworthy piece to place into their EDGE rotation, fortifying a group with a few key departures over the offseason.

Sam Darnold, quarterback

The 49ers learned the tremendous value of having a few viable options at the quarterback position the hard way last season. While Darnold has had an underwhelming career since being drafted as the third overall pick in 2018, he does bring a wealth of experience to what projects as a backup role.

After going through four different quarterbacks last season, the 49ers saw firsthand how bleak things can be without a capable quarterback. Darnold’s floor and upside are both up to debate and interpretation, but at minimum, he gives the 49ers an alternative at the position who has a significant amount of snaps in the NFL under his belt.


Jimmie Ward, defensive back

After nine years with the team, Ward was the longest-tenured 49ers player before he signed with the Houston Texans this past offseason. As good as the defense has been for the 49ers year after year, this feels like a loss that will be much more difficult to overcome.

Ward was not only a respected veteran in the locker room but also one of the most versatile defensive backs in the league. He’s capable of playing any of the five positions in the secondary, so finding someone to replace his production while offering that level of flexibility will be extremely difficult.

Samson Ebukam, EDGE

In his two-year stint with the 49ers, Ebukam recorded more pressures than any other player except for Bosa. Not only did he produce at a high level, but he did so while learning a new position upon his arrival in the Bay Area.

Ebukam is a physically gifted edge rusher who developed a strong pass-rushing repertoire to pair with the inherent strength he possessed. His consistent ability to get after opposing quarterbacks will be challenging to replace.

Charles Omenihu, defensive line

After being acquired in a mid-season trade during the 2020 season, Omenihu developed into one of the most important pieces on a 49ers defense that was a top-five unit during both his seasons with the team.

His ability to rush on both the edge and interior at a high level will be sorely missed, as will his postseason heroics. He recorded multi-sack games in each of the 49ers’ Wild Card Round wins over the last two seasons.

Robbie Gould, kicker

Not necessarily a position people are excited to discuss, but considering how many games are won and lost on the legs of kickers, a loss like Gould cannot be ignored. After six seasons in the red and gold, Gould remains unsigned, while the 49ers appear to have moved on with their selection of Michigan kicker Jake Moody in the third round of the 2023 draft.

The loss of Gould will be felt in the games that mean the most, as it will be near impossible to replicate his postseason perfection. Gould has never missed a kick in the postseason, making all 21 of the field goals he attempted in the playoffs during his stint with the 49ers.