In Elvis Dumervil’s one and only season with the 49ers, he led the team with 6.5 sacks as a part-time player.
The 49ers went into the last offseason with a dire need at edge rusher, yet the club decided to not pick up the option on Dumervil’s deal, which would have paid him $3.5 million for the season.
Five months later, Dumervil announced his retirement after 12 NFL seasons and 105.5 career sacks. Clearly, he would have played a 13th season if 49ers general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan had decided to keep him around.
“Honestly, I didn’t think it was smart at all,” Dumervil said.
Dumervil, this week's guest on The 49ers Insider Podcast, talked about that decision, as well as his post-retirement life in the Miami area and the future of the 49ers.
“It didn’t make much sense," Dumervil said of the 49ers' decision to part ways with him after one season. "But from a business standpoint, I understand it’s business. My feelings don’t get caught up into what business is. I’ve been caught up in a lot of a lot of contract negotiations, so I have a firm understanding of how that works.
“Now, do I think that was a smart decision? No, not at all. I explained that to John Lynch and Kyle. But at the end of the day, I respect those guys enough to understand that they have a decision to make to make the 49ers a better team, and if that’s not picking up my option, I have to respect that.”
A year later, edge rusher is again at the top of the list of the 49ers' offseason needs. In 2017, Dumervil recorded 6.5 sacks in 289 pass-rush downs, according to Pro Football Focus. Edge rushers Ronald Blair and Cassius Marsh had 5.5 sacks apiece last season while rushing on 338 and 370 passing plays, respectively.
The 49ers’ pass rush came from defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who rebounded from a three-sack season in 2017 to lead the club with 12 sacks.
“When I played with him, he was always hitting the quarterback,” Dumervil said of Buckner. “He was very disruptive.
“Sometimes it’s not always about the sack. It’s all about disruption and getting hitting hits and being effective. And I felt he was very effective. . . . He put himself into position to get closer and the game might have slowed down to him. I think he’ll be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. He’s a great guy, a great teammate, and I’m not shocked he had had a breakout season. I still think the best is yet to come.”
Dumervil said he sees a lot of potential in Solomon Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 draft. Dumervil said a lot of Thomas’ lack of production can be traced to the coaching staff for not figuring out how to best utilize Thomas’ skills.
“It’s the duty of the coaches to put him in the best position to be successful,” Dumervil said. “I think he needs to be well-coached. He has a lot of raw talent, but the obvious factor is, you have to get a D-line guy who knows D-line and give him the best opportunity to go ahead and put him in the best position to be successful.
“Whatever decision it is, you have to put him there so he can develop. But I do think he has tremendous upside. It’s just a matter of finding that synergy where he can do his job better.”
The 49ers hired a new defensive line coach in the offseason. Kris Kocurek was brought to the staff to replace Jeff Zgnonina, who coached the 49ers’ defensive line the past two seasons. The 49ers plan to lean on Kocurek to best figure how to deploy Thomas on the defensive line.
The 49ers can begin the process of improving their pass rush during the free-agent signing period, which begins March 13. Six weeks later, the 49ers will have the ability to add one of the top two pass rushers on their draft board.
“I think (Nick) Bosa is a slam dunk,” Dumervil said. “I don’t know if he’ll be available or not. He’s got the pedigree. There's rumors that he might be better than (brother) Joey. Time will tell. I think he’s a no-brainer if he gets to them. If the Niners get him, they’ll become a playoff-contending team.”
If Bosa is taken with the No. 1 pick, Dumervil said the 49ers would have to determine whether Josh Allen of Kentucky is a fit for the team’s 4-3 scheme.
“He has talent,” Dumervil said. “It’s a matter if he’s a 3-4 guy or a D-end guy. That will be the question. I kind of think his measurables are more suited for an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.”
Whomever the 49ers select with the No. 2 overall pick should enable the team to fill an important role. Dumervil said he believes the 49ers can make a huge jump from a 4-12 team into immediate playoff contention.
“Sometimes in football, you need a little luck, you need a little luck with the injury bug, and I think the Niners have kind of been decimated in that particular area,” Dumervil said. “But I think they have the right nucleus and I think for the draft order they’re in, it’s an advantage for the Niners because that’s not a team that should be picking No. 2.
“That’s a really talented team. Now they’re able to take advantage of the situation and grab one of these top guys. Next year they should be really solid, real fast.”