49ers’ $12 Million Defender Has to ‘Distinguish Himself From the Pack’

Ryan Tannehill

Getty Ryan Tannehill gets grabbed by Samson Ebukam during the 49ers' December 23 road loss.

While there are members of the San Francisco 49ers who have a lengthy stay in the Bay Area based on their contract, some are facing a critical training camp period starting on July 26 to help set the tone for a big payday — and perhaps extend their 49ers’ tenure.

One of them is a 49ers defender The Athletic’s Matt Barrows said “needs to distinguish himself from the pack this summer” in his Tuesday, July 19 training camp battles feature.

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Who Needs to ‘Distinguish Himself’

The defender is entering the final season of his contract, plus is walking into one of the deepest and most talented units on the S.F. roster: Defensive end Samson Ebukam.

Ebukam has this year left in his two-year, $12 million deal he signed with the 49ers. The 27-year-old is also set to make a base salary of $5.9 million per Spotrac before becoming an unrestricted free agent for 2023.

Ebukam has shown flashes of impact on the 49ers’ front line since coming over from division rival the Los Angeles Rams, even helping bail out Nick Bosa on occasions to provide his own pressure and offensive line attention, which helped free up Bosa to wreck backfields.

“Samson Ebukam was the top pass rusher opposite Nick Bosa throughout 2021 and, after playing outside linebacker for the Rams for four years, he finished the season on a strong note,” Barrows wrote.

But this season presents new obstacles for Ebukam. He’s involved in a three-way battle for the starter spot opposite of Bosa.

“Still, the 49ers are teeming with edge rushers after signing Kemoko Turay late in free agency and using their top draft pick on Drake Jackson,” Barrows said.

Plus there are three other names to watch out in the DL room who could impact Ebukam’s snap counts this season.

“In addition, the team has another speed rusher in Jordan Willis — he averaged 20 snaps a game in the playoffs — and pair of bigger-bodied players capable of playing defensive end in Kerry Hyder and Charles Omenihu,” Barrows wrote.

Finally, there’s the salary cap aspect as to why the $12 million edge defender needs to separate himself from the rest of the trench crew in the Bay Area.

“Ebukam’s $8.25 million salary cap hit also ranks eighth on a team eager to find cap room to accommodate upcoming deals for Bosa and Deebo Samuel. Which is to say, Ebukam needs to distinguish himself from the pack this summer,” Barrows said.


Ebukam Comes With ‘Lethal Combination’

Yes, Ebukam is heading into a 49ers DL room that looks congested like Bay Area traffic. But he’s likely to still find a way around the crowdedness and line up along the line — which includes getting his starts.

The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder started in 11 games last season in his first go round with the 49ers. He also matched his season best total of sacks in 4.5 for the third season in a row. He did, though, set a personal best in quarterback hits with 11 in a 49ers uniform.

And as Jordan Elliot of SB Nation pointed out, Ebukam has the skills and motor that gives him “A lethal combination that will regularly lead to sacks like this:”

He’s set the defensive tone on the first play before as well, proven here versus the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2021:

Ebukam is also pushing himself to become stronger than last season, literally:

Now in a contract year, Ebukam will look to emerge out of the projected three-way battle for the starting edge spot opposite of Bosa…and perhaps secure something larger than the $12 million he’s getting now down the road.

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