Dante Fowler could be 49ers NFL free agency target to upgrade pass rush


Dante Fowler could be 49ers NFL free agency target to upgrade pass rush

SANTA CLARA -- More than a month before the NFL draft, the 49ers will have an opportunity in free agency to add upgrades at their most urgent position of need.

The 49ers looked into adding edge rushers on the trade market this year, but they did not land either Khalil Mack or Dante Fowler, who were dealt to other teams.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said this week that the 49ers were interested in Fowler, but they were hesitant to part ways with draft picks for a player whose contract expired at the end of the season. Fowler ended up with the Los Angeles Rams, the 49ers’ opponent in Sunday's season finale.

“We’re always interested in adding pass rushers, and he’s a good pass rusher to add,” Shanahan said Wednesday of Fowler. “It was just a tough situation for us because you knew he was on the final year of his contract, so you know you’re only making a trade for a guy who you can only guarantee half the year.

“So, you’ll see how that goes, but it was just a little risky for the situation we were in.”

Fowler, 24, has four sacks this season -- two in seven games with the Jacksonville Jaguars and two since going to the Rams in an October trade for a 2019 third-round pick and a 2020 fifth-round choice.

He was the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, but he missed his entire rookie season with a torn left ACL. He had a career-high eight sacks last season and two more in the playoffs.

The Jaguars declined to pick up his fifth-year option for 2019, which would have paid him $14.2 million. The Rams have sole negotiating rights with Fowler, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent in March.

Robert Saleh, the 49ers' defensive coordinator, last year mentioned Fowler among five players in the system he considers as good fits to play the team’s edge rusher position.

[RELATED: How 49ers could land No. 1 overall draft pick]

The 49ers haven't gotten consistent pressure from their edge rushers. Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner leads the team with 12 sacks, and outside rushers Ronald Blair and Cassius Marsh are second with 5.5 apiece.

But Fowler comes with some off-the-field baggage. He was suspended for the first game of the season because of a violation of the NFL's personal conduct policy.

Fowler was arrested in July in Florida for battery and sentenced to a year of probation, 75 hours of community service and $1,575 in fines. He also was arrested in March 2016 on misdemeanor assault and resisting arrest charges.

Watch young Broncos fan almost walk off with Jimmy Garoppolo's helmet

Watch young Broncos fan almost walk off with Jimmy Garoppolo's helmet

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will always make time for his fans.

Heck, he'll even make time for opposing fans. Just don't steal his helmet -- it doesn't matter how cute you are.

During the 49ers-Denver Broncos joint practice on Saturday, Jimmy G ran up to some fans and started signing autographs. Including a young Broncos-shirt wearing kid. The quarterback asked him to hold his helmet for a bit so he could sign, and the youngin' almost ran off with it before Garoppolo asked for it back:

"I need that back, though," Garoppolo laughed.

All in good fun.

[RELATED: Lynch confident Garoppolo will have successful return]

But the man's got to keep that helmet.

It would have been fun to watch him try and run off with it though.

Richard Sherman, 49ers defense 'light years ahead' of last season

Richard Sherman, 49ers defense 'light years ahead' of last season

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The day after Richard Sherman praised both teams for their lack of physical conflict, the re-energized 49ers defense got under the skin of the Broncos and the result was a sideline-clearing skirmish.

“If it’s clean like it was today, two teams just competing, getting after it and perfecting their craft against guys who are different, not all the fights and excess then it’s fine,” Sherman said after the first joint practice in Colorado on Friday,

Unfortunately, it got a little chippy between the 49ers' defense and the Broncos' offense during the second day of team drills.

There was pretty big hit by the 49ers defense that resulted in a tackle for a loss and tempers started to flare. The ensuing play was an incomplete pass from Drew Lock to rookie tight end Troy Fumagalli. Marcell Harris went flying across the field as a result of an apparent blind side shove and both groups tussled on the field for over 30 seconds.

Two Broncos players, receiver Brendan Langley and tight end Bug Howard were ejected from practice. Coach Kyle Shanahan said he didn’t see the melee but like anything else, he will watch the film to make sure his players were not the instigators.

“Yeah, they got into a little scuffle over there,” Shanahan said. “I actually wasn’t on the field, so I didn’t see much of it. By the time I got over there, it was pretty much broken up. I know a couple guys got sent in. I was told none of our guys threw punches, so when I see the tape, we’ll see if they were telling the truth. Hopefully, they were.”

While the 49ers' defense may not have started the fight, they decidedly are more confident this season.

“It’s light years ahead of last year,” Sherman said. “I think it’s just young guys being veterans this year. I think the experience that a lot of guys playing a lot of downs last year gave them the confidence they needed to take the next steps.

“That’s why you see our twos and threes way ahead of where they were last year and our ones light years ahead of where they were, especially with the talent. Even when you’re missing Dee Ford and [Nick] Bosa right now, we’re still making plays, we’re getting the rush, we still have the intensity."

Sherman also noted how the addition of Kwon Alexander’s high level of energy has affected second-year linebacker Fred Warner in a positive way.

“It’s huge,” Sherman said. “You see it because they are tone setters. They’re in the middle they are just about on every tackle. They can feel every pass play every run play and when they’re bringing energy I think it emulates throughout the defense. The D-line feels it, the secondary feels it. Their intensity can change the day.”

[RELATED: Why Lynch is confident Jimmy G will have successful return]

When asked who started the fight, Sherman smiled.

"Good question. We'll just say them. It was them."