As the San Francisco 49ers prepare to re-tool their roster heading into 2023, fans have turned to the defensive line as a position of interest heading for John Lynch and company, with Samson Ebukam, Charles Omenihu, Kevin Givens, Jordan Willis, Kerry Hyder, and Hassan Ridgeway all set to hit free agency.
One player who has been linked to the team in the hopes of filling those holes by Jordan Elliott of Niners Nation is Marcus Davenport, a defensive end out of UTSA that the New Orleans Saints traded up to acquire in 2018.
“Davenport is tailor-made for the role that ((Arden) Key and (Charles) Omenihu have thrived in,” Elliott said. “The versatility to line up on the edge, as well as the interior, would be a nightmare for opposing offenses in the game plan for. A potential front four of Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Drake Jackson, and Davenport could be a game wrecking force in obvious passing situations.”
With three of the 49ers’ impending free agents, Omenihu, Willis, and Hyder, also capable of lining up on the edge and inside on obvious passing downs, adding a player like Davenport could help to fill a clear hole in Kyle Shanahan‘s roster should any or all of those free agents leave for greener pastures. Whether Davenport actually hits the open market, however, is a bit trickier, as his current contract situation with New Orleans in 2023 is very unique.
The 49ers Will Have to Watch the Saints’ Roster Moves
Technically, Davenport is an unrestricted free agent who is allowed to sign with whichever team he pleases moving forward, but the Saints do have a unique opportunity to save some money by keeping him around on a new, long-term deal, as Elliott detailed in his story.
“It’s also worth noting that due to some financial maneuvering, Davenport would count as a $7.6 million dead cap hit if the Saints were to let him walk this off-season,” Elliott wrote. “It is not clear how much the Saints will prioritize bringing Davenport back at this point, but if the interest is strong enough on their part, they will also gain additional financial flexibility if they can work out a deal to retain his services.”
“Ultimately, I think there is a strong chance Davenport hits the open market. According to Spotrac, New Orleans is currently $-54,605,434 in cap space while also being linked to a veteran quarterback who will eat a large chunk of whatever space they manage to free up with the annual “how on earth did they pull that off” cap manipulation that general manager Mickey Loomis has become well known for.”
If the Saints see Davenport as a vital part of their future, they could offer their draftee a new contract that wipes his current cap hit off the books in favor of long-term money paid out over multiple years should the two sides agree. Whether both sides have a mutual interest in staying together long-term, however, remains to be seen.
Marcus Davenport’s Stats Were a Mixed Bag in 2023
When fans look at Davenport’s stats in 2022, the number that will all but surely stand out most is .5 sacks, signifying that the fifth-year rusher must not have been very productive, but in reality, it’s a bit more complected than that one number tells.
Appearing in 15 games with nine starts, Davenport was on the field for 490 snaps, or half of the Saints’ defensive snaps, and rushed the passer 289 times, according to Pro Football Focus. On those pass rushing attempts, yes, Davenport recorded .5 sacks, but also eight QB hits, six hurries, and 14 pressures, all of which were down from his highs in 2021 but remain among the better marks on a middle-of-the-road Saints team.
These numbers and more led to Davenport earning a defensive grade of 76.8 and a pass rushing grade of 75.0, good for the 26th and 25th-best marks in the NFL among 120 and 119 qualifying edge rushers, respectively. Ebukam, the Niners’ most frequent starting defensive end opposite Bosa, by contrast, finished out the 2022 season with a career-high five sacks but had a defensive grade of 63.7 and a pass rushing grade of 65.3, good for the 73rd and 53rd marks in the NFL among edge rushers respectively.