There will be San Francisco 49ers on the unrestricted free agent side worth keeping once teams can sign players beginning March 15.
One idea brought up by analysts through nfl.com on Monday, February 20: Keep who they called is the “unheralded” free agent of their 2023 free agent class, and one who can help “maintain their dominant pass rush:” Edge rusher Samson Ebukam.
The 27-year-old is at the end of his two-year, $12 million deal with the 49ers, making him a UFA for the forthcoming ’23 cycle. However, there’s a reason brought up by the analysts who believe the 49ers should keep Ebukam: Working with the new defensive coordinator.
“To smooth the transition at defensive coordinator from DeMeco Ryans (who left to coach the Houston Texans) to Steve Wilks, the 49ers should try to maintain their dominant pass rush,” they wrote. “Ebukam has been the starting edge defender opposite Nick Bosa since signing a two-year pact with San Francisco in 2021, and he held his weight on the defense’s right side in 2022.”
The cat-quick 6-foot-3, 245-pounder ended up delivering career-best marks in sacks with quarterback hits with 13, tackles for a loss with seven and sacks with five. And he did his damage attacking the blindside.
‘Ebukam generated a 14.8 percent pressure rate last season, seventh-highest among defenders with at least 300 pass rushes. He was able to do this while primarily aligning across from left tackles, allowing Bosa to take advantage of right tackles during his Defensive Player of the Year campaign,” the analysts said.
What’s the Projected Value for Ebukam?
To lure back the veteran rusher, he could be in for an increase in pay rate for 2023 — which would cause the 49ers to clear significant room to keep him from drifting off.
Per Spotrac, Ebukam is projected to have the following value:
- Average annual salary: $7.7 million per year.
- Market value: Three years worth up to $23.3 million.
- Ranking among defensive ends through projected 2023 deal: 33rd highest contract.
Ebukam currently has the 38th highest contract for the DE group with his $6 million per year. But given the fact he went on to produce three career-bests this past season with the 49ers while also proving his presence on a loaded defensive line, Ebukam could command a higher salary…including from the 49ers. It would likely have to come at the expense of allowing names like Charles Omenihu, Jordan Willis, Kerry Hyder even cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, safety Jimmie Ward and outside linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair to drift off in free agency. That can clear up close to $20 million and give the 49ers some wiggle room to hand Ebukam the contract Spotrac is projecting.
What Other Teams Could Attract Ebukam?
Ebukam may not be the most trendiest name among the 49ers free agent class, let alone for the edge rush group. However, teams seeking defensive line help have pilfered S.F. free agents in the past — most recently the Jacksonville Jaguars through Arden Key (who’s a free agent for 2023) and the Denver Broncos through D.J. Jones.
If not the 49ers, what other teams could attract Ebukam? Here are some names and what analysts are saying:
Tampa Bay: Along with Omenihu and Ex-49er Key, Ebukam’s name was listed as a potential free agent rusher per bucs.com on Wednesday, February 22. The Buccaneers have five free agent defensive ends for 2023.
Las Vegas: Clutch Points on February 16 called Ebukam one of five “sneaky NFL free agents” listed as a fit for the Raiders saying, “Samson Ebukam would give the Raiders some more firepower off the edge.” Plus help Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones.
Atlanta: Pro Football Focus listed Ebukam as a Falcons possibility back on January 23, saying how Atlanta has gotten little production from their edge room and Ebukam can help bolster that.
Los Angeles Rams: Reunion? FanSided listed the former Ram Ebukam on February 17 as one who can help a pass rush that struggled with injuries and production…which lures him back to the place where he began his NFL career. Although Yannick Ngakoue and Khalil Mack have been called possibilities there.
But again, Ebukam has been described as someone worth keeping in the Bay Area. Especially with Wilks’ system being edge rusher friendly (22 of Carolina’s 35 sacks came from that group under Wilks) and Bosa still needing edge help.