Popular 49ers Coach Reunites With Former $9 Million Defender Amid Signing

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Getty Former 49ers center Jonathan Goodwin takes on Ex-Buccaneers defensive tackle Akeem Spence during a December 15, 2013 game.

The San Francisco 49ers not only loaded up in the defensive lineman room on Monday, August 1 with the first preseason game 11 days away. They completed a reunion.

Now on board: Veteran defensive tackle Akeem Spence, who agreed to a one-year deal with the ‘Niners and had his signing first reported by the 49ers’ team website at 9:15 a.m. Pacific Time.

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Spence, who has played for seven different NFL teams prior to the 49ers and was once on a three-year, $9 million deal with the Detroit Lions, comes on board in the wake of the Maurice Hurst injury. The defensive tackle tore his biceps during practice on Friday, July 30 — with the 49ers officially placing him on the injured reserve list on Monday. He’s the second defensive lineman to sign a one-year deal during training camp, the other being Tomasi Laulile.

Before his signing, Spence was one of four defensive linemen who had a tryout with the 49ers in the wake of Hurst’s injury, plus Arik Armstead being out momentarily due to an MCL sprain. Not only did the 30-year-old Spence win over S.F. to cement his newest contract, but his signing adds one more layer: He’s reuniting with a popular member of the 49ers’ coaching staff.

Spence Had One of His Best Seasons Under 49ers DL Coach

The 6-foot-1, 307-pounder, who began his career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a fourth-rounder and played there for four seasons, won’t come to the Bay Area not knowing anyone. Spence will know one man on the staff he’s got a previous relationship with.

That man is Kris Kocurek, the fiery and beloved DL coach for the 49ers who’s become responsible for producing one of the team’s most talented units, and one of the league’s best defensive line groups.

As noted by The Athletic’s 49ers insider David Lombardi, Spence delivered his best statistical sack output with Kocurek coaching up the trench defenders.

How Can the Journeyman Blend in With a Deep Unit?

In that 2017 season with the Lions, Spence manned the right defensive tackle spot. He played alongside a future Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle named A’Shawn Robinson.

Spence wound up with 39 tackles, 19 solo stops and four tackles behind the line of scrimmage. And he accomplished those numbers in 11 starts. The defensive end playing next to him? That was Ezekiel Ansah, who delivered 12 sacks to lead the Lions.

But that would be his only season with the Lions, as he moved on to the Miami Dolphins, followed by stops with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots and Washington Commanders.

How is it that a defender who is now on his eighth NFL team since 2013 managed to stay in the league? Lombardi pointed out one trait that Spence has that helps keep him on NFL rosters: His “quick get-off.”

“Akeem Spence is 30 years old now but he’s managed to stick around the NFL for a long while thanks to his quick get-off (see 10-yard split) and plus strength: 37 bench reps back at the 2013 combine,” Lombardi tweeted along with a graphic that details Spence’s intangibles. “Let’s see what Kocurek can get out of his old pupil.”

Spence won’t be the only former Kocurek disciple looking to redeem himself under his tutelage. Kerry Hyder will be seeking to reclaim his 2020 form with Kocurek, as Hyder’s 8.5 sacks that season represents his career-best total.

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