49ers Encouraged to Sign Ex-$64 Million NFC Championship Foe

San Francisco 49ers, Christian McCaffrey.

Getty Leonard Floyd attempting to tackle San Francisco 49ers defensive end Christian McCaffrey.

With the 2023 NFL draft officially in the rear-view mirror, the San Francisco 49ers are looking towards the future, with the team agreeing to terms with multiple draft picks and filling out their roster with undrafted free agents and veteran performers alike.

But even after signing players like Willie Snead IV, Chris Conley, and Isaiah Winstead to fill out the depth chart, that doesn’t mean the team couldn’t benefit from further depth chart fortification, as, in the opinion of Jordan Elliott of Niners Nation, there’s a perfect free agent sitting on the open market who would seriously help the 49ers in 2023: Leonard Floyd.

“Floyd is coming off three extremely productive seasons for the Los Angeles Rams,” Elliott wrote in his “3 free agent edge rushers the 49ers should target” article. “This would be a no-brainer for the 49ers if they can work out the financial side of things and bring him in on a deal that makes sense for both sides.

“He has recorded at least nine sacks in each of the last three seasons and had an 11.2 percent pressure rate as the Rams’ primary pass-rushing threat for the majority of the 2022 season.”

After initially signing a one-year, $10 million contract with the LA Rams in 2020, Leonard was rewarded for a 10.5 sack season with a four-year, $64 contract extension with Sean McVay’s squad in 2021. Though he was released from that deal in March of 2023 after having $15 million of his contract converted to a signing bonus in 2022, many talent evaluators believe Floyd would be in high demand as a free agent, making his unsigned status in May surprising, to say the least.

Leonard Floyd Was Considered a Top Free Agent in March

Assembling a list of the top 150 free agents in the 2023 class, Larry Holder and David DeChant went through every player who wouldn’t be under contract at the end of March following the franchise tag window for The Athletic and ranked each player based on “factors like age, production, health, and potential.” In the opinion of DeChant, Leonard was the 15th-best free agent available at the time of publication, March 12th, ranking second among available edge rushers behind only Marcus Davenport.

“Floyd has certainly benefited from Aaron Donald’s presence in L.A., but he’s been consistently productive in his own right, without slowing down since turning 30 in September,” DeChant wrote. “He has 29 sacks, 59 quarterback hits, and 157 pressures (per TruMedia) over the past three seasons, including four sacks, 11 hits, and 28 pressures in the six games Donald missed in 2022. Floyd also hasn’t missed a game since 2017 and has played at least 80 percent of defensive snaps in four consecutive seasons.”

With long-time starting defensive end Samson Ebukam allowed to test the open market in free agency and ultimately signed by the Indianapolis Colts, the 49ers don’t have a clear starter opposite Nick Bosa on the edge, with Drake Jackson, Kerry Hyder Jr., Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant, and Robert Beal Jr. all competing for the open spot. If the 49ers can afford his contract, which might be easier after restructuring Christian McCaffrey’s contract on April 28th, Floyd would instantly become a favorite to take over for Ebukam.

The San Francisco 49ers Freed Up $8.5 Million in April

Heading into the 2023 NFL draft with just under $1.5 million in cap space, according to Pro Football Talk’s Charean Williams, John Lynch decided to restructure McCaffrey’s contract heading into his seventh professional season, converting $10.72 million of his 2023 cap hit into a signing bonus in order to create $8.576 million in additional cap space, according to Spotrac.

While the 49ers do need to dedicate some of that additional cap space to signing their draft class, the team does have much more wiggle room to pursue a free agent like Floyd, with the option to restructure other players like Arik Armstead to free up more cap space available to Lynch, in addition to signing the Chicago Bears draftee to a long-term contract or a deal padded out with void years. If Floyd is interested and the 49ers feel the same, the front office has the tools to get a deal done.

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