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5 ESPN experts name Javon Hargrave-to-49ers as best free agent signing

Mar 22, 2023 at 9:23 AM--

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ESPN recently asked 12 of its analysts and writers to identify the best overall free agent signing this offseason. Five of them named the San Francisco 49ers signing former Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave as the winner.

After facing him in the NFC Championship Game, the Niners couldn't resist the urge to pursue the high-profile free agent. Hargrave recorded five of the Eagles defense's 20 total pressures in that game against the 49ers, tallying one of Philadelphia's three sacks, and earning a 91.1 overall Pro Football Focus grade, his second-highest grade of the season (91.5, Week 18 vs. Giants). The defender's 92.9 pass-rush grade against San Francisco was also his second-highest of the season (93.1, Week 10 vs. Commanders).

The addition of Hargrave may signal the 49ers throwing in the towel on the much-criticized decision to move away from fan-favorite DeForest Buckner in 2020, trading him to the Indianapolis Colts, and drafting Javon Kinlaw as a replacement. The injury-plagued Kinlaw has struggled to stay on the field, appearing in only 10 games over the past two seasons and accruing only career 1.5 sacks since being made the No. 14 overall pick.

Hargrave bolsters the interior of new coordinator Steve Wilks' defensive front while stealing away a key component of an NFC rival.

Fantasy football analyst Stephania Bell wrote:

"You have to give the 49ers credit for absorbing the punishment Hargrave dished out in the NFC Championship Game and then signing him in free agency. The defense was already a force to be reckoned with, given the talents of Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead, but Hargrave secures the Niners as the best defensive line in the NFL and guarantees more problems for opposing offenses up the middle."

NFL draft analyst Matt Miller wrote:

"The rich get richer, and the defensive line in San Francisco is the league's best with Hargrave joining Bosa and Armstead up front. With one of the league's most explosive offenses, the 49ers' defense is now poised to tee off on opposing quarterbacks when teams are forced to throw to win."

Writer Jason Reid wrote:

"Talk about adding to an area of strength. It seems downright unfair that the 49ers were able to significantly bolster one of the league's best defensive fronts -- which already featured Bosa and Armstead -- but that's exactly what they did."

NFL draft analyst Jordan Reid wrote:

"After struggles from Javon Kinlaw, San Francisco quickly pivoted to find another solution up the middle. Pairing Hargrave with Armstead and Bosa gives the 49ers one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL, and he will provide an anchor up front and produce constant pressure from the interior."

Writer Seth Wickersham wrote:

"San Francisco got even deeper and more talented at a key position. And not only can the Niners potentially make a Super Bowl run, they also hurt a main rival (Philadelphia, Hargrave's old team) with the signing in the process."

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