Top 5 free agent targets to improve 49ers' pass rush
The Denver Broncos made a strong argument during the postseason for putting together the kind of defense that trumps the quarterback position. After all, the Super Bowl champions had the lowest-rated passer (minimum of 10 attempts per game) in the entire league during the regular season. And Peyton Manning did not exactly light it up in the postseason, either. Meanwhile, the Broncos’ defense completely neutralized and silenced the league’s MVP, Cam Newton, on Sunday night at Levi’s Stadium with a relentless pass rush...
Lynch needs help
... So while the No. 1 issue facing Chip Kelly might be his decision of how to approach the 49ers’ quarterback situation — and, yes, it will most certainly be his call — perhaps the 49ers’ hopes for 2016 hinge on what general manager Trent Baalke does to strengthen and deepen the team’s pass rush. Aaron Lynch is a legitimate starter. Ahmad Brooks has been so-so. And the 49ers need a lot more than those two players applying pressure on the quarterback. Young outside linebackers Corey Lemonier and Eli Harold did not produce any sacks. And the 49ers need to get some pass-rush production from their base defensive linemen, too...
1) OLB Von Miller, Broncos
OK, it’s not likely to happen. The Super Bowl MVP is almost certain to be retained with the franchise tag. And even if he were to hit the open market, there will be plenty of teams lined up to overpay for his services. -- Matt Maiocco
2) DE Muhammad Wilkerson, Jets
See above. Wilkerson plays defensive end in a 3-4 defense. The 49ers will remain in a 3-4 scheme with Jim O’Neil as defensive coordinator. The 49ers have not gotten a lot of pass rush from their three base linemen. Wilkerson had 12 sacks last season. Of course, it’s unlikely the Jets allow him to hit the market. -- Matt Maiocco
3) DE Malik Jackson, Broncos
The Broncos will not be able to retain all of their players, so there is a strong possibility Jackson hits the open market. Although he’s not an elite pass-rusher (he recorded five sacks in the regular season), he is a disruptive force at the point of attack and would provide the 49ers’ defense with a major upgrade. -- Matt Maiocco
4) OLB Bruce Irvin, Seahawks
The 49ers were high on Irvin coming out of the 2012 draft. As a rookie, Irvin recorded eight sacks. The past two seasons, Irvin recorded 6 1/2 and 5 1/2 sacks. He said he wants to remain with the Seahawks and would even agree to a “hometown discount.” -- Matt Maiocco
5) OLB Frank Zombo, Chiefs
There might be bigger names on the free-agent market, such as New York Giants defensive end Robert Ayers. But Ayers seems better-suited in a 4-3 scheme. Zombo, who recorded three sacks last season, is a special-teams ace who would be a good rotation player — in the Dan Skuta mold. -- Matt Maiocco