The free-agent signing period begins Wednesday at 1 p.m. This is Part Four of a series that examines the 49ers’ biggest offseason needs and their options in free agency.
The 49ers used the first hours of the open negotiating period to fill a need at inside linebacker.
They remain in pursuit of a veteran edge rusher.
DeForest Buckner supplied the 49ers last season with their first legitimate pass-rush threat since the days of Aldon Smith.
Buckner has things handled on the inside. Now, the 49ers need to add upgrades on the outside via free agency and the draft. The 49ers’ top edge rushers last season were Ronald Blair and Cassius Marsh, who recorded 5.5 sacks apiece.
An upgrade at edge rusher would have an impact throughout the 49ers’ defense. The 49ers managed an NFL-record-worst two interceptions last season. Opposing quarterbacks were rarely rushed into bad decisions and poor throws.
On the roster
Cassius Marsh, Ronald Blair, Pita Taumoepenu, Dekoda Watson
On the market
Considering the 49ers are so thin at edge rusher, there should be plenty of options available in free agency who can provide the team with upgrades.
The 49ers figure to have interest in Ziggy Ansah, whom 49ers executive Martin Mayhew selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft as general manager of the Detroit Lions. Moreover, new defensive line coach Kris Kocurek worked with Ansah. A six-year veteran, Ansah has been plagued by injuries. But in 2015 and ’17, when he was mostly healthy, Ansah recorded 14.5 and 12 sacks.
Justin Houston, 30, recorded 9.5 and nine sacks the past two seasons. In 2014, he had 22 sacks. The Kansas City Chiefs announced Houston's release Sunday after failing to find a trade partner.
Of course, there is such a premium for pass-rushers that many of the top performers are already off the market. Demarcus Lawrence (Dallas), Jadeveon Clowney (Houston), Dee Ford (Kansas City) and Frank Clark (Seattle) were tagged as franchise players. Brandon Graham (Philadelphia) and Dante Fowler (L.A. Rams) were signed to extensions before the start of the open negotiating period. During the opening negotiating period, Trey Flowers and Terrell Suggs reportedly reached contract agreements with Detroit and Arizona, respectively. The Packers added Preston Smith (Washington) and Za'Darius Smith (Baltimore).
The 49ers do not have a need to add just one edge rusher. The 49ers need multiple edge rushers. One of those edge rushers is likely to come in free agency. Then, the 49ers will have the opportunity to select either Nick Bosa or Josh Allen with the No. 2 overall draft pick.