Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

49ers GM John Lynch: Ahkello Witherspoon faces ‘big year,’ Solomon Thomas’ role will expand

Apr 20, 2020 at 3:18 PM--

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon has a lot to prove this year. Expectations were high in 2019 as the defender entered his third NFL season, and he performed well before missing six games due to a foot injury.

Emmanuel Moseley flourished in Witherspoon's absence and even started in place of a health Witherspoon during the NFC Championship Game and Super Bowl LIV. San Francisco finished the regular season with the No. 1 ranked pass defense last year.

General manager John Lynch spoke with reporters today via a Zoom video conference and called 2020 a "big year" for Witherspoon.

"This is a big year for Ahkello — no doubt about it," Lynch said, "and he's got to show it on the field. I remember drafting him some years ago, and all of the qualities (we saw then) we still see. Now, he's got to just consistently put it to work."

Lynch noted that he is well-aware that the 49ers have several cornerbacks who are approaching the ends of their contracts, including Witherspoon. That could impact the team's draft strategy this year. It's a situation Lynch and the Niners are monitoring closely.

It's also a big year for defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, who is entering his fourth NFL season. Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan made Thomas their first-ever draft pick, selecting him No. 3 overall in 2017.

While Thomas hasn't put up the numbers one might expect from a top-3 pick, Lynch expects the 24-year-old defender to see his role expand this season. Some of that may have to do with the departure of Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who was shipped to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for the No. 13 overall pick. Lynch mentioned Thomas while sharing which defensive lineman the team has confidence in to step up and full the void.

"Solomon Thomas is a guy we felt played well last season in a role," Lynch said, "and that role will expand next season."

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