‘Massive Swing’ could land 49ers 3-time Pro Bowler

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Members of the 49ers defense during the NFC title game on January 19, 2020.

By now, San Francisco 49ers fans have seen all of the 2022 fictional drafts that list those who could provide additional defensive help if drafted by the team.

There’s the range of cornerbacks who can add physical strength and ball-peddling skills if caught. Then there’s the possibility of trench aid to relieve Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and company.

The, there are also free agents, including those from the 49ers, who could continue the spark they helped ignite in the trenches during their NFC title run.

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But on Wednesday, Feb. 23, NBC Sports Bay Area columnist Josh Schrock mentioned a “massive swing” that the 49ers can look to strengthen the defense even more.

Long story short: This 2022 free agent is a three-time Pro Bowler, and was once ranked first overall.


The ‘intriguing’ defender who could interest the 49ers in free agency

Schrock mentioned five names in his article targeting top free agents the 49ers could pursue.

Schrock’s pick on who can team up with Bosa and company? Jadeveon Clowney, former No. 1 overall pick in 2014.

Here’s why Schrock thinks the Bay Area could be a solid and suitable destination for the Cleveland Browns top rusher who already appeared in three straight Pro Bowls from 2016-18:

“That would, admittedly, be a massive swing that the 49ers probably won’t take.

But Clowney was fantastic last season in Cleveland against Myles Garrett. Clowney had nine sacks and 19 quarterback hits in 14 games and was half a sack away from matching his career high. Clowney also finished fourth in ESPN’s pass rush win rate metric.

Clowney likes to take his time in free agency. If he doesn’t return to Cleveland, the 49ers could pair Clowney with Nick Bosa and take their pass to the next level.

The football version of the “gold rush” would be on another level.

Let’s face it: Clowney and Bosa together — plus Armstead, Charles Omenihu, a healthier Javon Kinlaw and possibly the return of Arden Key and DJ Jones to free agency — is becoming an offensive line coach’s nightmare and could giving offensive coordinators the insomnia to think about the 49ers. First line. And looking closely at the 29-year-old Clowney, he can still provide some value and intimidation when called upon.


How Clowney might fit in if brought in

The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Clowney has 41 career sacks by pro football benchmark, but delivered his first nine-sack season since his final Pro Bowl season in 2018 (also the third time in his career that he has has reached this bag mark).

But if you look closely at Clowney’s eight-year career, he was always at his best when he played with an elite rusher in front of him.

When he entered the league in South Carolina, he played alongside JJ Watt for five seasons… at a time when Watt was in his prime. Despite two season-ending injuries between his time as Clowney’s teammate, Watt still delivered three double-digit seasons of 20.5 (2014), 17.5 (2015) and 16 (2018) with Clowney at the other side. In his three Pro Bowl seasons, Clowney hit between 6 and 9.5 sacks.

Then last season with the Browns, Garrett energized the rush with 16 sacks while Clowney finished second to the former No. 1 overall (2017). Here’s an example of the collapsing collaboration he and Garrett brought to Cleveland:

Clowney only had a one-year, $8 million contract with the Browns. Per Spotrac, he had a base salary of $2.5 million which also included a cap of $3.6 million.

Unfortunately, that move won’t happen if the ‘Niners decide to keep Key, Jones and another final free agent like Kentavius ​​Street and Jordan Willis. Some deals are also expected to be restructured if Clowney finds a way to SF

But to reiterate: Clowney has always been a passing threat with another elite bag master on the other defensive end. The opportunity to play with Bosa and the rest of that trench unit could be his best shot at another nine-sack season if the Browns aren’t the team for him. It’s a “massive swing” indeed, but a grand slam-like move if the 49ers take advantage of it.


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