The San Francisco 49ers are being linked to an up-and-coming NFL star in free agency, not that long after his release from the Jacksonville Jaguars. San Francisco’s roster is already strong, but landing Dawuane Smoot could elevate the defense even further.
The 49ers allowed just 25.9 points per game in 2022, which was sixth-best in the league. In the Kyle Shanahan era, the San Francisco’s defense has been a consistent force, but that’s only been sustained by making forward-thinking moves.
Signing Smoot could be that next move, as Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton wrote up. The 49ers, along with the Minnesota Vikings and Houston Texans, are considered the ideal landing spots for the defensive tackle.
“Smoot has logged at least five sacks in four consecutive campaigns, and he’s registered 80 pressures over the previous three years. Behind Pro Bowl edge-rusher Josh Allen and most recently 2022 No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker, Smoot has made the most of his limited time on the field. He can take the next step with a team that may not have the cap space to sign Yannick Ngakoue or Justin Houston,” Moton explained.
The 49ers have cap space to work with, but it’s not a war chest by any means. With that said an under-the-radar signing like Smoot could pay big dividends on low investment.
Smoot Impresses with Jaguars
After two years with zero sacks and a third-round selection affecting expectations, it wouldn’t have been surprising to see Smoot released by Jacksonville in 2019. After joining in the 2017 NFL draft on Day 2, Smoot was a non-factor in his first couple of campaigns.
But things clicked for the Illinois alum in year 3. Despite not starting a single game, Smoot totaled six sacks off the bench according to Pro Football Reference. From that season onward, the 28-year-old has been the definition of consistent.
As Moton mentioned, Smoot has at least five sacks in each of the past four seasons, but he’s also raising his production elsewhere with four forced fumbles and five passes defended in the past three seasons.
It feels as if there is still a higher ceiling for Smoot based on his current trajectory. Whether he will reach that with the 49ers remains to be seen.
49ers Could Pursue Ex-Dolphins DE in Free Agency
Besides being linked to Smoot, the 49ers have also been connected to former Miami Dolphins edge rusher Melvin Ingram. On June 28, Bleacher Report suggested the veteran in a similar vein to Smoot, primarily stating that he can level up the San Francisco defensive line as a depth option.
“Ingram can still be productive at this point in his career, and he might be a good insurance option for the 49ers to have alongside Bosa and new defensive tackle Javon Hargrave,” Joe Tansey wrote. “The 49ers can also plug into their connections in Miami to get a strong scouting report on Ingram and if he would fit their defensive style.”
Ingram is a three-time Pro Bowler but is almost half of a decade removed from his last PB selection. Ingram played for both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs in 2022, but only earned two sacks in 15 total appearances.
Smoot feels like the better player at the moment, but Ingram has the pedigree of being a top-level NFL defensive end.