When the 49ers stumbled out the 2018 season the most dominating conversation was about the defensive pass rush, or lack thereof. The effort by the front line defense did have its moments during the final weeks of the season. However, most of the time the pass rush reminded you more of a one armed man in a boxing match. The quarterback just didn’t seem to be worried very often during the course of a game, and on a weekly basis. The usual players were blamed right along with Robert Saleh who collected most of the responsibility for the failures.
To look closely there was always one thing clearly missing from the 49ers pass rush. The pressure coming off the edge was only sometimes involved.
The 49ers have tested just about every potential edge rusher on the defensive unit thus far.
That anemic pass rush was the top conversation, and priority one up until future hall of fame wide receiver Antonio Brown came out of nowhere, and claimed he wanted to be a San Francisco 49er.
Brown, and the legendary Jerry Rice became "bff's". Jerry was heard on bay area media platforms singing praises about Brown and endorsing him like nobody has ever saw him do with anybody before. Terrell Owens got in on the campaign and before you know it the urgency for a pass rusher simmered down to a fire so low things pretty much stop cooking for a minute.
The 49ers then released Pierre Garçon at maybe exactly the wrong time. The masses then immediately assumed the organization was making room for Brown. In truth the 49ers most likely had plans on releasing Garçon early in December.
Odell Beckham Jr. who was heavily pursued in 2017 was also believed to be a player the 49ers would resume to pursue during this 2019 offseason. Jay Glazer set the fire with his report that the Giants denial of wanting to trade OBj had no merit.
The media immediately flooded news outlets with the 49ers desperately being in need of a wide receiver. That led to a fan rally for either Brown or Beckham jr.
Many believe the 49ers have dragged their feet on bringing in star talents. That may not be altogether true, but the 49ers don’t have a lot of sexy names on the roster but it’s unclear if that fact is due to no efforts being made to add talents or not. One thing for sure is that the 49ers are cautious with their transactions and that may not be a bad thing. Lynch and Shanahan will stick to their blueprint of building the 49ers. Shanahan recently released a statement echoing that sentiment.
MMQB poured more water on the flames of hope just the other day for those who were excited about adding Antonio Brown to the 2019 roster by stating the 49ers had no interest in trading for Antonio Brown.
My guess is that as some believe the 49ers are not just an Antonio Brown away from fully challenging in the NFL. With that in mind giving up draft picks would be a problem.
The smoke may really start to clear this week during the combine regarding Brown as the incoming rookies will take center stage.
The 49ers will step back out of the free agent wide receiver light and back into the find pass rushers mode which in truth remains the biggest hole on the roster.
The Combine is where plenty of discussions between GM’s is going to take place. The 49ers could be involved in talks but it’s hard to imagine with who. The best pass rushers such as DeMarcus Lawrence, Jadeveon Clowney, Dee Ford, Frank Clark are most likely not going to be available due to being franchise tagged by their respective clubs.
The 49ers however cannot take their foot off the gas on this matter. Vet talent is a must. The draft will yield a rookie, or maybe even two, but the new to the NFL rookie will have to prove he belongs. Complete reliance on draft rookie would be a risk the 49ers cannot afford.
There are a few solid players at the edge position that may be had. The faves are Anthony Barr and Tre Flowers of whom are rumored to most likely not draw the franchise tag.
Another solid name can be added to the short list of names that can help with the pass rush. that Za'Darius Smith who the Ravens can apparently no longer afford may be another solid candidate. Smith had a productive 2018 as so many players do in their contract years. Smith led the team in total pressures with 59. Smith also ranked fifth, and 13th in pressure percentage (15.0) and pass-rush win rate (16.8) among all NFL edge defenders with 250-plus pass-rush snaps on the year. In short Smith put in a good season of work. Smith is 6’4 272LBS. He is 26 years old with his prime dead ahead. Smith had 8.5 sacks on the season but he did that platooning with a talented group of pass rushers that limited him to 67% of the season’s total snaps. On a team that included Terrell Suggs who the Ravens want to resign amongst a couple of others it seems Smith may be the odd man out. Smith could be on the 49ers radar…
A Za'Darius Smith Breakdown