Why Hargrave caused York, 49ers to change spending habits


PHOENIX — Until recently, the 49ers had a history of playing the free-agent market very conservatively, and CEO/owner Jed York shared why. 

“We are never going to be a huge spender, but I think when we do spend, we have to make sure it’s deliberate,” York said while at the NFL Annual Meeting this week. “Making the trade for Christian [McCaffrey] last year, getting Javon [Hargrave] and a few others in free agency, this year.

"You want to make sure you’re adding to the club and making sure you’re giving the club a chance to win.”

The 49ers shocked much of the football world when they announced that star defensive tackle Javon Hargrave signed a four-year, $84 million contract on March 13.

The roster that general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan have assembled in the Bay Area is impressive, with star players across the board. With Nick Bosa's long-term contract extension looming and several high-ticket standouts at nearly every position, Hargrave coming to the Bay Area was quite unexpected. 

“Going back to [former 49ers GMs] Scot McCloughan, Mike Nolan days, we’ve never been a huge spend-in-free-agency club,” York said. “That’s not really our belief. But when you’re going to spend in free agency, you better make it count, because you’re going to spend a lot of money. 

“Knowing Javon, I remember we loved him when he was coning out of college. He was a guy they liked very much.” 

While Hargrave only has earned one Pro Bowl selection in his seven NFL seasons, he definitely has made an impact on the field. The South Carolina State product has 40.5 quarterback sacks to his credit, 15.5 from his four seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and 25.0 in his last three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Hargrave is coming off a career-best season in 2022 where he racked up 60 total tackles — 37 solo, 10 for a loss -- along with 16 quarterback hits. His 12 total sacks ranked him tied for second on the Eagles with fellow defensive linemen Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham. 

Only Haason Reddick recorded more quarterback sacks (16.0) on the Eagles defensive front. 

“Watching him play last year, he played very well against us in the NFC Championship Game, and he’s a guy who can make a difference,” York said. “When you have a Super Bowl caliber defensive line, he gives you a chance to compete against the best teams in this league and that’s who we have to beat if we want to win a Super Bowl.”

RELATED: How Hargrave earned "Gravedigger" nickname in college

The 49ers hope to see a significant jump in quarterback pressures across the defensive line with the addition of Hargrave lining up next to Bosa and Arik Armstead. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year topped the team with 18.5 sacks in 2022 and no other player on the 49ers' defensive line recorded more than 5.0 sacks. 

San Francisco believes that will change with the addition of Hargrave.

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