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49ers remain committed to Javon Kinlaw, says John Lynch

Mar 30, 2023 at 1:22 PM

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Do the San Francisco 49ers regret making defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw a first-round pick in 2020? You will get very different answers to that question on social media than the answers from the team's top decision-makers.

Kinlaw has only appeared in 10 games over the past two seasons, dealing with the knee injury that was a concern coming out of South Carolina. The defensive tackle had reconstructive knee surgery in 2021. A setback this past season forced him to miss 11 games.

When Kinlaw has played, he has failed to make an impact on the defensive side of the ball. He has earned only 1.5 sacks in three NFL seasons, and his 31.9 overall grade from Pro Football Focus for the 2022 season (including the playoffs) was the lowest on the team.

RELATED 49ers have no plans to trade Javon Kinlaw, per report

Earlier this month, the 49ers made a significant move, stealing away defensive tackle Javon Hargrave from the Philadelphia Eagles in free agency, bolstering the interior of the defensive front. Many felt that signaled an admission that drafting Kinlaw, entering the final year of his rookie deal, was a mistake.

One reporter asked general manager John Lynch, speaking at the NFL owners' meetings in Arizona, if the Hargrave addition meant the 49ers no longer saw Kinlaw as a potential game-changer.

"I don't think so," Lynch responded. "… I'm really excited for Javon [Kinlaw] because he's going into an offseason healthy. And I think we're committed to him and watching him be part of this group, and he's excited about that."

The 49ers added Hargrave and defensive end Clelin Ferrell (Raiders) but lost defensive linemen Samson Ebukam (Colts), Maurice Hurst (Browns), Charles Omenihu (Chiefs), Hassan Ridgeway (Texans), and Jordan Willis (Raiders). So it would be beneficial if Kinlaw could contribute during the upcoming season.

San Francisco is not expected to exercise the fifth-year option on Kinlaw, likely signaling a departure in 2024. This year, there are no plans to move off the defensive tackle. Instead, the 49ers will look for Kinlaw to prove himself and stay healthy.

"And maybe it hasn't gone, because of the injuries, hasn't gone as well as we all might have anticipated or, I think, as well as it would have had he been healthy," Lynch said. "That's part of this thing. And so now, he is healthy, he gets to be a part … of our rotation, and we're really excited about that."

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