49ers Struck Rare Gold With Addition of $2.5 Million Defender

Charles Omenihu

Getty Charles Omenihu wraps up Marcus Mariota on October 16, 2022.

Christian McCaffrey wasn’t the only impactful find for the San Francisco 49ers on the eve of the NFL’s trade deadline.

While the versatile and dynamic running back and receiver (and in the case of the Los Angeles Rams Week 8 win, part-time quarterback) was a winning get for the 49ers during this trade deadline cycle, the 49ers are proving they won another trade scenario…striking rare gold around this time one year ago.

That move? Luring in Charles Omenihu via the Houston Texans. And the more Omenihu has played, the more the 49ers look smarter for luring in the rare 6-foot-5, 280-pound find.

Impact of Omenihu on 49ers D-Line

Omenihu isn’t considered a starter on the 49ers. In fact, per Pro Football Reference, he’s only started in two games since his November 2021 arrival — due to early injuries on the defensive line in the 2022 season.

He additionally doesn’t have the wealthiest of contracts on the 49ers, with a 2022 base salary of $2.5 million per Spotrac.

But one look at his numbers, production and highlight plays, one would immediately forget the fact that he’s a non-starter.

Omenihu has already matched his previous season-best sack totals with four this season. And that’s been done in a span of nine games. He last got his season-high in sacks in 15 games with five starts in 2020 with the Texans.

He turned up the pressure significantly against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, November 13 by providing six quarterback pressures. And, by getting his fourth sack this season, continued this personal rampage he’s been on:

His length and relentless pursuit of Justin Herbert came in handy during the most crucial sequence for the 49ers defense in the 22-16 home win. On the Talanoa Hufanga game-sealing interception, guess who helps set up the pick? Omenihu with the penetration that forced the errant throw:

But the Chargers game wasn’t his first time playing the role of disruptor of the passing game.

Against the Carolina Panthers, he applied the same type of pressure but in this clip, lined up as an insider defender as the 4-technique (when a defensive lineman lines up inside shade of a tackle’s shoulder).

Another benefit for Omenihu? He plays on a front line that features the man tied for the NFC lead in sacks with 9.5 Nick Bosa. That means Bosa commands the most attention with more double teams — which in the process frees up Omenihu to draw more solo blocking battles:

But one more luxury the 49ers have had through Omenihu: With Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw both missing time, Omenihu has become the one taking advantage by wrecking his own havoc on this loaded trench unit.

Hard Part Coming for the 49ers

Unfortunately here comes the hard part for John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan and company: Keeping Omenihu.

He’s set to become an unrestricted free agent by season’s end. He’s additionally on pace to surpass all of his career-best marks including total tackles, solo stops, tackles for a loss and of course the sack numbers. And at just 25, he could emerge as a hot commodity free agent come March 2023 especially if those statistical numbers continue to sprout.

There’s already fans asking if Omenihu has a future with the 49ers and if it would involve an extension. Perhaps the 49ers won’t want a repeat of what happened to Arden Key, who produced his career-best season but drifted off in free agency to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Omenihu may become a franchise tag candidate for Lynch and company if it came down to it.

But regardless, Omenihu became a rare golden find for the 49ers long before they nabbed McCaffrey. And the more Omenihu impacts the defense, the smarter the 49ers look in luring in this under-the-radar addition from 2021.

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