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Why the 49ers focused on D-line in recent trades

Nov 4, 2023 at 4:45 PM--

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A month ago, the San Francisco 49ers bolstered their defensive line by trading for Randy Gregory. The veteran defensive end has accumulated four tackles, including two for a loss, four quarterback hits, and a sack in 63 snaps since joining the 49ers.

Gregory's Pro Football Focus grade soared from 44.7 in his four games with the Denver Broncos this season to 69.9 post-trade.

This past week, San Francisco further solidified their pass rush, welcoming former No. 2 overall pick Chase Young to the defensive front. These moves followed the addition of a big-bodied defensive tackle, Javon Hargrave, in free agency, and making defensive end Nick Bosa the highest-paid defender in NFL history.

So, why spend more resources to bolster the defensive line while leaving positions like cornerback or the offensive line unaddressed?

"When you have those opportunities, it's such a position that can affect [everything]," general manager John Lynch recently told NBC Sports Bay Area. "I think, really, if you look at football and oversimplification, you've got to get the guy, the quarterback, and then you got to get the guys that knock him down. That's probably the simplest way to success in our league."

Lynch and the 49ers shipped a 2024 compensatory third-round draft pick to the Washington Commanders in exchange for Young. He is slated to become a free agent after this season. If he opts not to stay, the 49ers will likely receive a 2025 compensatory third-round draft pick in return.

RELATED John Lynch expects Chase Young to be a coveted free agent in 2024

Essentially, this means that the cost for potentially half a season with Young would be delaying the use of a third-round draft pick by a year—a relative steal for a Super Bowl-hopeful team, given the potential benefits.

"And I think Chase gives us an opportunity to continue to add at a position that we like to add to," Lynch said. "We always believe that the D-line is the engine that not just stirs our defense, but our whole team.

"And we understand we all have to play better. And Chase coming in here is not going to be the one thing that's going to get us back to who we are. We've got to collectively get ourselves back to who we are.

"But we do feel that Chase is [an] excellent player. And for the cost that was available, it made a lot of sense, and so we made the deal."

Young hasn't even played a snap in red and gold, yet he already leads the team in sacks with five. A mere two weeks ago, the defensive end achieved his second-highest ever single-game Pro Football Focus grade (90.0) with a two-sack performance against the New York Giants.

Lynch concluded, "But those two players were fortunately available, guys we've liked and coveted for a long time. And we were able to get the deals done at what we thought was a very fair cost and had a chance to improve our team. Now, we've got to go do that."

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