Reinforcing the Defensive Line 2013

Feb 22, 2013 at 10:32 PM

As Free Agency looms on the horizon, that same ray of light will shed on Isaac Sopoaga's future with the 49ers. Isaac Sopaga who turns 32 years old in 2013 will be a Free Agent on March 12th, unless the San Francisco 49ers offer the long time red and gold Defensive Tackle a new contract. Given the depth of talent at DT in Free Agency and NFL draft coupled with Isaac's age and limited versatility in Vic Fangio's 3-4 defense, it is highly unlikely Isaac will play football in 2013 as a 49er. There is the possibility that Isaac will be accept a low offer to remain with the 49ers, but San Francisco will still need to reinforce the defense line with football players that can play all three positions in the 3-4 scheme. After several hours of watching film, I have developed a list of top 5 candidates that Harbaalke should pursue in Free Agency.

5. Roy Miller-6'2" 310 lbs turns 26 years old this year and made 1.5M in 2012. He can control his offensive lineman. He moves well laterally and even drops into coverage at times. He's in the game only on 1st and 2nd downs and goal lines. He gets good penetration and gave David Baas a hard time against the NYG. He played a lot of 1 Gap defense and is very successful at it. He loses his footing often when he's in the trenches. He is a little gassed near the end of the game. He plays on a 4-3 defense.

4. Vance Walker-6'2" 304 lbs turns 26 years old this year and made 1.26M in 2012. He beat up K.Boothe from the NYG on every single play. He is a great run stopper and plays well in the pass. He can hold his position against the offensive line in the run game. He can play 2-Gap and plays in all situations but is rotated to be kept fresh. V.Walker is the most complete DL on the team. With ATL focused on convincing Tony Gonzalez to return to football and trying to sign Matt Ryan to a contract extension in addition to conducting new contract negotiations with William Moore and debating what to do with Ben Grimes, there is a chance that Vance Walker may slip into Free Agency.

3. Mike Devito-6'3 305 lbs turns 29 years old this year and made 2.5M in 2012, He can hold his position against the run play. He has great use of hands and has a natural push-pull move that he used regularly on Anthony Davis when the Jets played against the 49ers this past year. He can play all 3 positions in the 3-4 coming from a 3-4 defensive team. His lateral movement is not as good as one would like, but he gets very good penetration and is powerful at the point of attack.

2. Randy Starks-6'3" 305 lbs turns 30 years old this year and made 4M in 2012. He has very strong legs and can control the point and play 1-gap. He has deceptive quickness and good power. He uses his big body to shed OL. He takes a second to disengage, but can disengage easily. He has a non-stop motor and has good body quickness for a big guy on the inside. He is almost always on the field. He destroyed the Oakland Raiders LG and RG with penetration and gets off blocks to tackle RBs in the lane. He does a great job maintaining gaps against zone schemes.

1. Kevin Vickerson-6'5" 290 lbs turned 30 years old in January and made 1.7M. He can play 2 gap and has great power at the point of impact. He does a good job controlling the offensive linemans and can get penetration in the pass game. Denver rotates their linemans so he's not on the field every down. He was the main reason why Denver was good on the interior.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Frank
    Bee, You just made a great argument for the Broncs to keep him, if he's that good. I live in Colorado Springs and saw him play, too, once live in the 3rd preseason game at Mile High. Not saying he doesn't have some ability, but there are a number of other players available. Ironically, DL is one of the areas John Elway's been saying they want to improve. Again then, why would they let him go?
    Feb 27, 2013 at 7:40 PM
    Response: Well, the logic with my argument is that it also provides a counter argument for why teams may retain their players. With any highly regarded FA (whether or not you believe Vickerson is highly regarded) if they are so highly regarded why would any team want to let them go. So, I guess if I make a really good argument for a player, then does that automatically mean that the same team would retain him? I don't know. Good FA get let go all the time for another reason. Who do the broncos have outside of Vickerson on that interior line?
  • Frank
    Vickerson? Really? Wow, if you look at FA rankings ( I typically use Walter's Football as a guide), he comes in @ #24. Why do you think the Niners should sign him? I'm thinking Baalke could get a better player without breaking the bank...for example: Alan Branch, Mike DeVito, Roy Miller, Sammie Lee Hill.
    Feb 27, 2013 at 6:58 AM
    Response: Walter's football is a good guide. They are one of the few websites that keep their site updated. I'm not sure why Vickerson isn't rate higher. He definitely isn't a household name, but was the core player on the Bronco defensive line. Here's why I think SF should sign him: 1) He's powerful at the point of attack. He pushes his OL back like there's nothing there. 2) He can play 2 Gap defense. He can hold up his OL like a bully and wait for the RB to come down the left or right lane. 3) Interior lineman often never get sacks, but he has great pass rush ability. 4) He can play all 3 positions along the DL so that Ray McDonald and Justin Smith don't have to play 95% of downs in every game, especially playoff games. His versatility also provides depth at all 3 positions. 4) He has been cheap. He actually had to take a pay cut in recent years to play for Denver. 5) If the other teams in the league have the same perception you have, then we should be able to get him for a cheap deal. I actually think that Devito will be more expensive than Vickerson. I also think that Roy Miller gets easily gased throughout the game. He is a rotational player at best and his versatility along the 3-4 line is questionable. Though I respect the work that Walter football does, I watched Vickerson in several Broncos game and have been heavily impressed.
  • Frank
    Not so sure 'Fins will be able to re-sign Starks...they're supposedly after Mike Wallace & he'll eat up a good deal of cap space. I'd love to see him w/Niners. Very versatile DL, which we don't have now, other than JS. Don't need another NT...we need "bigs" who can play inside and out. Jesse Williams, Hankins, Jenkins, Shariff, etc.
    Feb 25, 2013 at 3:27 PM
    Response: Even if Mike Wallace is signed, they can structure his contract to open cap space this year. I think they will see Starks as a valuable asset to their future and tag him in a worst case scenario. I don't know that we will get a starter in the draft. We need to go after Vickerson.
  • Ninerdawg
    Nice article. On another note. I wonder why Harbaugh didn't go after Richard Sherman last year, him being an ex Standford player? And then to let Pete Carroll snatch him up?
    Feb 24, 2013 at 9:55 AM
    Response: I think too much is being made about how Harbaugh is not drafting his own college players. The few that SF has invited to camp have not made major contributions to the team. SF actually had a really good draft that same year, so I'm not going to complain about going after Sherman. Sherman is an above average cover corner, but was pushed around in run support. He benefits from a very good front 7 that is still underrated. Last year's draft was horrendous on many fronts. I'll be posting articles soon about who to keep an eye on in the draft. Thanks for reading.
  • Ladale
    They need Henry Melton or Randy Starks. They are desperate for a Pierce Holt or Bryant Young type to bring quick pressure up the middle on third downs. It's something Mike Nolan always understood when he would play 3/4 on 1st and 2nd and go 4/3 on third and 4th because he knew those big large NT's could not bring pressure up the middle. The shortest distant between two points is straight line. They could also use a situational pass rusher opposite Aldon Smith because Ahmad Brooks is good at containing the edge in the run game but struggles to turn the corner on passing downs.
    Feb 23, 2013 at 8:10 AM
    Response: I think Henry Melton will be great for situational pass rushing up the middle. He has excellent quickness on the inside. I do believe that Melton will be better on a 4-3 scheme, where he is more likely to get 1 vs. 1 match ups. As for Randy, I think he will likely be resigned by the Dolphins and will likely command a large contract for that matter.
  • Jason Giese
    I hope they can work out a deal with Sopoaga. But you're right, he is getting up there in age. Devito would be a good addition since he can play every position on the DL. The Niners also lack depth at DE, so he would be a welcome addition. Nice article!
    Feb 23, 2013 at 6:21 AM
    Response: I think Sopoaga would be a good backup for SF. I don't think we should spend more than 2-3M a year on him, which is why he is likely to move on to another team.

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