Why Lynch predicts increased production for Kinlaw in 2023


INDIANAPOLIS — John Lynch believes Javon Kinlaw will make a bigger impact in his fourth season with the 49ers. 

San Francisco's general manager knows the defensive line was key to the club’s success during the 2022 NFL season, and with six members of the group set to become unrestricted free agents, players who will remain on the roster in 2023 will need to step up. 

“I’m excited about Javon,” Lynch said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “There’s been so much talk about him, but going into an offseason healthy is a big deal for a player. He took two or three days and was right back out there working out, because I think he is so excited.” 

Lynch’s office has a view of the practice field, and he shared that since the season ended, he has seen Kinlaw regularly working out with other players who are rehabbing through the offseason, like quarterback Trey Lance. 

Kinlaw appeared in nine games in 2022, missing Weeks 4-15 due to fluid build up in his knees. Similar to his opinion of Lance, Lynch believes Kinlaw simply needs reps to improve his on-field performance. 

“He’s got to take a jump and he needs to practice,” Lynch said. “When you're that big of a guy, I think it’s harder for bigger guys when you’re not practicing. Pad level and things are so essential. His body hasn’t allowed him. 

“Now, hopefully, we get a good stretch where he can really do that, then we got to go supplement [the defensive line].”  

Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead are the standout pillars of the group. Defensive line coach Kris Kocurek will look for increased production not only from Kinlaw but also Drake Jackson, Kalia Davis, T.Y. McGill and Alex Barrett who are all under contract in 2023. 

Unrestricted free agents on the defensive line include Hassan Ridgeway, Samson Ebukam, Kerry Hyder, Jordan Willis and Charles Omenihu. Kevin Givens is a restricted free agent. 

Lynch and the 49ers have had a good track record of bringing in veteran free agents on short-term agreements, like Ebukam and former 49er Arden Key. With Nick Bosa’s impending contract extension to consider, the club cannot afford an expensive defensive lineman free agent.

“You’d love to get a cornerstone for five years in there,” Lynch said. “But D-line, those usually happen when you’re picking second and you get a guy like Bosa, or you pay through your ears. So we've got to be creative and come up with some other ways. 

“We've got a history of guys entrusting us for one year, and a lot of that has to do with Kris Kocurek, with our scheme, with our style. We let those guys attack. Most guys like to attack. They don’t want to be sitting and reading. We usually figure it out. It is daunting sometimes looking at all those black boxes on the depth chart.” 

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Lynch and the scouting department will look to supplement their defensive front during free agency as well as in the 2023 NFL Draft. But with the 49ers' 10 draft picks coming in the third round or later, they'll be forced to be creative in finding pieces to play alongside Bosa and Armstead.

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