NFC Team Searching for Rush Help Hosting 49ers Defender: Report

Arden Key

getty Arden Key of the San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers have managed to keep their second leading pass rusher Arden Key in the five days since the free agency signing period began.

But could this week be the period where the 49ers potentially lose him?

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First reported by Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network on the morning of Monday, March 21, Key is visiting with the Detroit Lions.

Key’s Value & Production as a 49er

The 25-year-old Key delivered his best season as a pro as defensive line coach Kris Kocurek and defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans helped unlock his potential.

Key went on to produce 6.5 sacks (his highest since joining the league out of LSU in 2018). He also delivered 17 quarterback hits and five stops behind the line of scrimmage — two more career highs per Pro Football Reference.

Key began snatching his sacks once November came around. He collected his first sack against the Arizona Cardinals on November 7 in the 31-17 home loss, then put together two more games of adding to the sack stat sheet against the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams and the road trip against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Key then would finish out the months of December and January with 3.5 sacks in the final six games — including settling for 0.5 sacks against the Seattle Seahawks, the AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals and the season finale against the Rams to clinch a wildcard spot into the playoffs.

Before his arrival to S.F., Key struggled to find some footing and rushing with the Las Vegas Raiders, as he produced just three sacks in three seasons. He also didn’t have a sack in the 2020 season — his last with the team.

But he’s since blossomed in the Bay Area to the point where he has let it be known, he wants to remain with the 49ers.

“I want to come back,” Key told his Instagram followers back on March 7. “S–t, they got to want me to come back. Well, they want me to come back. We got to see if the money right.”

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Key, though, is an unrestricted free agent whose one-year, $1,045,000 deal is up. Already, the 49ers have lost key trench members D.J. Jones to the Denver Broncos (three years, $30 million) and Kentavius Street to the New Orleans Saints (signed with the team on Friday, March 18).

Lions Need Rush Help

The Lions’ pass rush will be seeking to improve this total from a season ago: 30 sacks.

That number placed them at third worst among NFL teams last season. Only the Philadelphia Eagles (29) and the Atlanta Falcons (18) had worse numbers per Statmuse.

Outside linebacker Charles Harris was the Lions’ top edge rusher with 7.5 sacks in 2021. Julian Okwara followed him with 5 sacks. However, no other Lions defender surpassed the 4.5 sack mark.

Pro Football Focus listed Key as the 150th best free agent available for the 2022 cycle on Wednesday, March 16, writing “Key was cut by the Raiders shortly before the 2021 season, but he performed well with the 49ers. Key’s 79.4 pass-rush grade and 36 quarterback pressures were career-highs, and he may have played his way into a solid deal as a rotational pass-rusher” while also adding “He was effective moving around the line of scrimmage, and that makes him an intriguing option as a rotational pass-rusher moving forward.”

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