The 49ers were severely lacking for players capable of coming up with big defensive plays.
Do you want some evidence to support that claim?
The 49ers last season were the worst team in NFL history when it came to generating takeaways. The 49ers forced just seven forced turnovers. The record prior to last season was 11, shared by the Baltimore Colts (1982), Houston Texans (2013), Dallas Cowboys (2015) and Chicago Bears (2016).
The 49ers also set the record for fewest interceptions in a season with two. The previous record was three, set by the Houston Oilers during the nine-game strike-shortened season of 1982.
That is where Kwon Alexander fits in.
He may be on the small side, listed at 6-foot-1, 227 pounds, but he is a playmaker the 49ers desperately need.
In 46 games over four seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Alexander recorded seven sacks, six interceptions and six forced fumbles. The 49ers consider his production to be elite playmaking ability. He was snubbed from the NFC Pro Bowl team after recording 145 tackles in 2016. A year later, he was selected to the Pro Bowl.
Alexander started every game in which he appeared during his time in Tampa Bay. He was suspended for four games as a rookie for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. He missed four games with a hamstring injury in 2017. And he was sidelined for the final 10 games last season with a torn ACL in his left knee.
Fred Warner started at middle linebacker last season for the 49ers as a rookie. He led the team in tackles. But Warner lacks top-end play-making ability to generate turnovers. That is why the 49ers targeted Alexander and agreed to terms on a four-year, $54 million contract.
The 49ers went strong after Alexander. C.J. Mosley was widely considered the top inside linebacker on the open market. In five seasons, Mosley recorded 8.5 sacks, nine interceptions, six forced fumbles and four Pro Bowls. He is expected to cash in as multiple teams are reportedly bidding for his services.
The 49ers are no longer interested after locking in Alexander.
Alexander called the signals as middle linebacker with the Buccaneers. In the 49ers’ defense, the middle linebacker and weakside linebacker positions are interchangeable. The only difference is the middle linebacker receives the radio communication directly from defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and relays the signals on the field.
However, the Alexander deal comes with some risks.
After all, Alexander sustained his knee injury on Oct. 21. That places his rehabilitation approximately eight weeks behind running back Jerick McKinnon and a month behind quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Both McKinnon and Garoppolo are expected to be cleared for full football activity when training camp opens in late-July.
Alexander addressed his Buccaneers teammates at halftime of the game he sustained the season-ending injury late in the first half of the Week 7 against the Cleveland Browns. Then-Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter called Alexander “the heart and soul of our defense.”
[RELATED: Alexander wants OBJ on 49ers]
Coach Kyle Shanahan has stated he does not mind his team overpaying for character and players who are passionate about football.
Apparently, that's what the 49ers are getting with the decision to make him their highest-paid defensive player at an annual average of $13.5 million.