49ers Linked to Prolific Sacker to pair with Nick Bosa

Yannick Ngakoue, San Francisco 49ers

Getty Yannick Ngakoue sacking then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Tasked with naming “one player every team must sign” for ESPN, Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders named Yannick Ngakoue as a great fit for the San Francisco 49ers as a rotational edge alongside Nick Bosa and Drake Jackson.

“The 49ers could use a veteran rotational edge rusher,” Schatz wrote. “Last season, Nick Bosa played only 74% of defensive snaps in games in which he was active. Even the greats need a breather occasionally! The other starter next year may be youngster Drake Jackson, a 2022 second-round pick who played only 29% of the defensive snaps as a rookie. The 49ers could bring in Ngakoue, who has played for four different teams over the past three seasons but still had 9.5 sacks for Indianapolis in 2022. His 14.1% PRWR was not near the top of the league but was comfortably above average.”

With Samson Ebukam, Charles Omenihu, and Jordan Willis all set to become free agents later this month, the 49ers are going to have to address defensive end one way or another, even if it’s just through the NFL draft. If, however, the 49ers can fit a player like Ngakoue under the salary cap, it may actually serve as an upgrade over all of the players leaving town, as none ever recorded eight sacks in a single season, whereas the collegiate Terp has accomplished that feat in five-straight seasons.

Yannick Ngakoue is in Rarefied air as a Pass Rusher

In the Indianapolis Colts’ “2023 NFL Free Agency Capsule” on Ngakoue, writer JJ Stankevitz noted that Ngakoue has recorded a feat that only four other players have accomplished since sacks started being counted in 1982.

“Ngakoue became the fifth player in NFL history to record eight or more sacks in each of his first seven seasons in the NFL, joining current and future Hall of Famers Aaron Donald, DeMarcus Ware, Reggie White, and Derrick Thomas,” Stankevitz wrote. “His season was cut short after he sustained a throat injury in Week 16 against the Los Angeles Chargers.”

For a team looking to add a dedicated pass rusher who can take a quarterback down an average of 8.125 times per season, there aren’t many options on the open market who are more effective in that role than Ngakoue. If, however, a team would instead like a well-rounded rusher who can defend the run and rush the passer, then general managers might want to look elsewhere, as few talent evaluators would call Ngakoue’s game “well-rounded.”

The San Francisco 49ers may not be the best fit for Yannick Ngakoue

If the 49ers want to seriously supercharge their pass rush heading into 2023, then signing Ngakoue might be the right call depending on the price tag attached, but as Matt Bowen pointed out in his “2023 NFL free agency: Ranking top 50 available players” piece for ESPN, the 2022 Colts defensive end – who ranked number 32 on his list – is more of a specialist than a true three-down lineman due to his poor pass rushing abilities.

“Ngakoue had 9.5 sacks in 2022, bringing his total to 65 over eight NFL seasons,” Bowen wrote. “Given his subpar tape as a run defender, however, he should be targeted as a situational pass-rusher, a role in which he can use his top-end traits to win on the edge: burst off the ball, hand usage, and the ability to bend around offensive tackles. We know NFL teams value edge rushers, and so Ngakoue will have a market, even if he tops out as a pass-rusher on nickel snaps.”

In 2023, San Francisco used Jackson as their speed rusher on obvious passing down, at least when he was active on gameday, with Samson, Omenihu, and Willis each playing more snaps on base downs or rushing from the interior. Unless the 49ers can upgrade their defensive tackle position to where Arik Armstead can play defensive end in base defense before kicking inside on passing downs, the role he filled for San Francisco in 2019, Lynch may look to re-sign one of his impending free agents like Ebukam, who actually graded out better against the pass and the run according to Pro Football Focus.

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