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In a bit of a shocker, San Francisco 49ers OLB Aaron Lynch has been suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season. The suspension is reportedly due to violating league policy on substances of abuse.
#49ers OLB Aaron Lynch has been suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season for violating league policy on substances of abuse.— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) July 15, 2016
"While disappointed to hear the news regarding Aaron today, we support and respect the league's decision. We are confident that he will learn from this matter and that he understands what is expected of him moving forward," said 49ers general manager Trent Baalke regarding the suspension.
Lynch's suspension won't make him available until the 49ers' October 6 Thursday night game at home against the Arizona Cardinals. He will miss matchups against the Los Angeles Rams, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks, and Dallas Cowboys, which were all part of what was considered by many to be a brutal start of an already tough 2016 schedule.
The 49ers were looking to rely on Lynch in 2016, who is entering his third season and already considered to be the defense's best pass-pusher. Last season, Lynch had 38 tackles, and 6.5 sacks through 14 games and 816 defensive snaps. He was the team's best edge defender according to advanced statistics site Pro Football Focus, where he earned an overall grade of 81.5. In fact, he is the 49ers' third best player according to Pro Football Focus' grading system, behind only Joe Staley and Ian Williams. His 14.3 pass rushing productivity ranked fourth among 33 qualifying NFL 3-4 outside linebackers.
Lynch, who was expected to start opposite Ahmad Brooks on the outside, was drafted by the 49ers in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. "Aaron Lynch had more QB pressures last year (62) than all other #49ers OLBs combined (57)," said Jeff Deeney, an analyst and 49ers media correspondent for Pro Football Focus.
We reached out to Deeney and asked how the 49ers might look to replace Lynch for the team's first four games. He didn't sound too optimistic, which is a testament to Lynch's ability and value to the 49ers' defense. "Uhhhh....hope that Eli Harold or Tank can breakout this year. Maybe Marcus Rush can surprise. Pretty thin group behind Lynch," he responded.
Lynch recently ranked fifth within the top 25 players list created by Chris Biderman of Niners Wire.
Other outside linebackers on the 49ers roster include Eli Harold, Ray-Ray Armstrong, who can also play inside, and Corey Lemonier.