The 49ers on Monday lost another contributor to the league’s top defense of last season.
Defensive end Jordan Willis, whose biggest play during his 32-game stint with the organization came on special teams, signed a one-year contract with the Las Vegas Raiders, the club announced.
Willis becomes the fifth 49ers defensive lineman to sign a free-agent contract to change teams in the first week of free agency.
Since the opening of the free-agent signing period, Samson Ebukam (Indianapolis), Charles Omenihu (Kansas City), Hassan Ridgeway (Houston) and Maurice Hurst (Cleveland) also departed the 49ers. Hurst was plagued by injuries and appeared in just two games in two seasons.
On the flip side, the 49ers made a big splash at the opening of free agency with a four-year, $84 million contract with ex-Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave.
“It was really shocking to me that they called me and asked me to come over here,” Hargrave told the Bay Area media last week. “Because a team like that doesn’t really pay somebody like me to come over.”
The 49ers also signed defensive end Clelin Ferrell, the No. 4 overall pick of the Raiders in the 2019 NFL Draft, to a one-year contract.
San Francisco 49ers
Ferrell has a chance to win the job as the starting defensive end in base situations. Ebukam started 32 games in his two seasons with the 49ers. Ferrell appeared in 58 games with 30 starts over four years with the Raiders. He registered 10 sacks during that time.
The 49ers will continue to look for defensive linemen to fill out their rotation for defensive line coach Kris Kocurek.
Currently, the 49ers figure to have Hargrave, Ferrell, Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Drake Jackson, Kevin Givens, T.Y. McGill and Kalia Davis as part of their core linemen. The club expects to continue to look to sign veteran defensive linemen, while also investing in that position in next month’s draft.
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Willis came to the 49ers in a 2020 midseason trade from the New York Jets. He had 7.5 sacks. His most memorable play came in the NFC Divisional Round playoff game against the top-seeded Green Bay Packers on Jan. 22, 2022.
With the 49ers trailing 10-3 with 4:41 remaining in regulation, Willis blocked a punt deep in Packers territory. Talanoa Hufanga gathered up the loose ball and scored on a 6-yard return to tie the game.
The 49ers won the game, 13-10, on Robbie Gould’s 45-yard field goal as time expired.