Analyst Calls for 49ers to Add ‘Insurance Policy’ in Ex-1st Rounder

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Getty Eric Kendricks (No. 54) and Sheldon Richardson (middle) close in on Deebo Samuel during the November 28, 2021 49ers' home victory.

As loaded and deep as the San Francisco 49ers defensive line is heading into July 26 training camp, there are those who believe the 49ers can use one extra presence moving into the 2022 season.

Or an “insurance policy” for Javon Kinlaw.

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Joe Tansey of Bleacher Report outlined who are capable of becoming veteran free agent contracts the 49ers must consider in his column on Wednesday, June 29. While the former first rounder Kinlaw has shown signs of being quicker and leaner following his knee surgery, Tansey is a believer that the 49ers should add a veteran in the event the injury bug returns to the defensive tackle.

And the name Tansey has in mind is not only a past Pro Bowler, but has been in California before — years prior to establishing himself as a first round talent.

Who is the ‘Insurance Policy?’

Tansey points to unsigned free agent and 2013 first rounder Sheldon Richardson as a late option for the 49ers‘ defensive trenches.

“The 49ers need an insurance policy for Javon Kinlaw in case he gets injured again,” Tansey wrote. “The 24-year-old played 16 games in his first two NFL seasons and was only on the field for four contests in 2021.”

Tansey points out how durability isn’t much of an issue for the 13th overall pick out of Missouri.

“Sheldon Richardson played in either 16 or 17 games in each of the last four seasons for the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings. He would ease any concerns about durability on the defensive interior and could be an asset on the pass rush alongside Nick Bosa,” Tansey wrote.

Plus, in what could entice the 49ers to consider Richardson, he can come in and provide some inside pressure on the quarterback.

“The 31-year-old produced 13 quarterback hits, six tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks last season with the Vikings,” Tansey said. “He reached double figures in quarterback hits in three of his last four seasons.”

Richardson no Stranger to the Golden State

Should the 49ers decide to lure in Richardson if needed, it wouldn’t be his first California rodeo.

While he starred at Gateway Institute of Technology in St. Louis, Missouri and rose to a five-star prospect by Rivals and 247Sports, Richardson eventually ended up at College of the Sequoias in Visalia — located in California’s San Joaquin Valley and located less than three hours and 20 minutes away from the 49ers.

The 6-foot-4, 290-pounder, though, never lost his football dominance while miles away from St. Louis. He became the No. 1 defensive tackle prospect at the junior college level by 247Sports. And one of his JUCO teammates on the Giants? Future 2015 third rounder and newly signed Houston Texans cornerback Steve Nelson.

What Could Concern the 49ers About Richardson

Richardson unfortunately isn’t getting any younger. He’ll be 32 in November. There’s also his cap number.

“Richardson may be a bit more expensive than other remaining free agents,” Tansey said. “But the numbers show he has been consistently effective in rushing the quarterback.”

But here’s one more reason why Richardson is considered a late option for the 49ers: Trey Lance.

“The 49ers may need to win more games with their defense in 2022 in case the offense takes some time to develop under Lance,” Tansey said. “An additional interior defensive lineman could help San Francisco play in low-scoring games and win ugly as the second-year quarterback adjusts to the starting role.”

Turns out Richardson was recently in a similar scenario before. He was brought in by the Browns in 2019 during a time Baker Mayfield was entering his second NFL season. Richardson ultimately went to the postseason with Cleveland in 2020.

Richardson is also no stranger to wrecking havoc with an elite edge rusher next to him, as he’s disrupted backfields with Myles Garrett…which should indicate he would have no issue teaming nicely with Nick Bosa and company.

While the 49ers have no shortage of depth along the defensive line and aren’t known for making late free agent splashes under the John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan regime, Richardson may be hard guy to pass up if there’s a need.

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