49ers' plans at edge rusher impacted by how teams use franchise tag


The 49ers have a glaring need at the edge rusher position, which makes it a good thing for the organization that this year’s class of draft prospects is particularly deep.

As the window to use the franchise tag nears, there has been a flurry of teams locking up their top pass-rushers, as Lynch predicted at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

“As I’ve learned,” Lynch said, “typically those guys get what Robbie Gould got, and they never reach the market. They get franchised, the good ones.” 

Lynch also explained that while the best prospects can be game-changers once they reach the field, you know what you’re getting with free agents. 

“Obviously the one thing about free agency is that you’ve seen them at our level," Lynch said. "So, if you feel confident and you have room, and you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for or you have other needs in the draft, that’s the thing you weigh back and forth. 

“That’s a constant conversation that’s ongoing. Every team has them and we’ve certainly been having those as well.”

As the combine came to an end, notable players were announced as being tagged. Seattle’s Frank Clark, Kansas City’s Dee Ford, Dallas’ Demarcus Lawrence and Houston’s Jadeveon Clowney have all been tagged. Philadelphia’s Brandon Graham signed an extension. 

There are still a few intriguing free-agent pass rushers available. Chiefs veteran pass rusher Justin Houston, 30, is reportedly on the trade market or could be released. The four-time Pro Bowl player recorded a league-high 22 sacks in 2014. After two injury-plagued seasons, Houston recorded at least nine in each of the last two seasons. 

Houston's expected availability gives the 49ers -- and other teams in need of a pass rush -- another option on the veteran market.

Detroit defensive end Ziggy Ansah is another free agent who the 49ers could have interest in. He has connections to new defensive line coach Kris Kocurek from his time with the Lions and he was drafted by vice president of player personnel Martin Mayhew. His injury-riddled past three seasons, however, could be a deterrent.

Ansah earned a trip to the Pro Bowl after recording 14.5 sacks in 2015. Ansah had 12 sacks in 2017, but injuries limited to two and four sacks in 2016 and '18, respectively.

Los Angeles Rams edge rusher Dante Fowler is also slated for free agency. He has connections to the 49ers having played with Jacksonville under defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. The third overall pick of the 2015 draft has yet to reach his potential, but is still an interesting option. 

With such a deep draft class, the 49ers do not feel the pressure of getting a deal done with a free agent that could have a high price tag. Lynch detailed the options they are weighing. 

[RELATED: Ten free agents 49ers could target for front seven]

“I would tell you that it’s a great year to be looking for D-Linemen in general,” Lynch said. “I hear people talking, I’ve been doing this for a couple of years, but they’re talking eight years, this is as strong of a class as the last eight years at the defensive line. 

“I concur. It’s not just exclusively at one position. There’s inside guys, there’s outside guys and you’re right, there’s some on the free agent market.” 

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