The defensive end spot is one of the key areas the 49ers have to address during the 2023 free agency period. Not that every team can’t always use more pass rushers, but for San Francisco the situation is particularly dire. DEs Samson Ebukam, Charles Omenihu and Jordan Willis are all due to hit unrestricted free agency this offseason, leaving the 49ers with Nick Bosa and second-year DE Drake Jackson as their only two options on the edge. Whether they can count on Jackson to be the starter opposite Bosa remains to be seen, which is why Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz tabbed veteran DE Yannick Ngakoue as a free agent fit for San Francisco.
It’s hard to argue with the logic connecting Ngakoue to the 49ers. He’ll be 28 at the start of the season and he’s tallied 8.0 or more sacks in each of his seven seasons. Last year he put up 9.5 with the Colts. Ngakoue struggles some defending the run, but lining him up in sub packages where he can strictly get after the quarterback would still allow him plenty of opportunities to impact games.
San Francisco has churned out a couple of reclamation projects under defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. Veterans like Kerry Hyder and Arden Key had career years in red and gold before signing elsewhere the following offseason. Ngakoue would be a different kind of reclamation project though.
His production has never been the real issue. There are some ups and downs in his play to be sure and he’s far from a perfect DE, but the fact he’s been on five teams in the last four years isn’t a great sign for his long-term viability as an NFL player.
This isn’t a matter of an aging pass-rushing merchant going wherever the most money is. It’s a matter of teams not wanting to commit to a productive edge rusher in the middle of his prime. Ngakoue’s talent level should’ve earned him a massive long-term deal somewhere. Instead he’s been traded and signed to one-year contracts in each of the last four seasons. Ngakoue could conceivably use San Francisco to put up big numbers on a good team before landing a longer-term deal in his Age 29 season next year.
For the 49ers it would certainly be a gamble. They may be able to re-sign Ebukam and Omenihu for not much more than Ngakoue might command on the open market. However, Ngakoue’s talent is undeniable and it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t be a good fit for the 49ers from Day 1.
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Story originally appeared on Niners Wire