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.
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.