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49ers beef up defensive line entering 2021 NFL Draft

NBC Sports
Maurice Hurst

The 49ers spent the week before the draft improving their depth along the defensive line.

General manager John Lynch could still look to use a draft pick or two to strengthen the front four, but it is no longer a necessity.

The recent contract agreements with a pair of former Raiders, defensive tackle Maurice Hurst Jr. and edge rusher Arden Key, mean the 49ers have at least a dozen defensive linemen on their offseason roster with significant recent playing experience.

Hurst and Key join offseason acquisitions of edge rusher Samson Ebukam and defensive tackle Zach Kerr as players who figure to be key rotational players along the defensive front.

The 49ers signed Ebukam to a two-year, $12 million contract early in free agency. He played his first four seasons with the Los Angeles Rams.

Kerr is a seven-year veteran who has started 16 of the 88 games in which he has appeared. He appeared in 13 games with four starts for the Carolina Panthers last season.

Hurst (6-foot-2, 291 pounds) started 17 of the 40 games in which he appeared for the Raiders since entering the NFL in 2018 as a fifth-round draft pick. He registered 76 tackles with eight sacks.

Key, a third-round pick in 2018, started 10 of his 37 games with the Raiders. Key (6-5, 240) has 49 tackles and three sacks in his career.

The 49ers’ starting front four appears set. Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa line up at the defensive ends positions on base downs. D.J. Jones and Javon Kinlaw are the starting defensive tackles.


Kevin Givens, Kentavius Street, Jordan Willis, Darrion Daniels and Alex Barrett return. Givens’ status is unknown after a recent arrest for an alleged assault in Maryland.

Edge rusher Dee Ford continues to rehab from a back condition that limited him to just one game in 2020. His availability for the season remains in question.

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The 49ers might opt to select a defensive lineman during Day 2 or 3 of the NFL Draft next week to beef up the team’s rotation of edge rushers.

The 49ers have a scheduled nine draft picks, including three in the fifth round.

After the 49ers choose their quarterback of the future with the No. 3 overall selection, the club is expected to look to bolster its talent at, among other positions, cornerback, offensive line and slot receiver.

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