Thursday, December 22, 2022

$12 million 49ers rusher among the “Sneaky Good” 2023 NFL free agents

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The San Francisco 49ers will soon welcome another key rotation piece to their trenches, with Samson Ebukam expected to play the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, November 27.

But could Ebukam, who is in the final year of his $12 million deal, become a fixture outside of the Bay Area in 2023?

There are already analysts and fans pondering who some of the attractive early free agent names for the 23-cycle are – as the upcoming free agents will aim to finish strong and do enough to cover a potential big payday to win. And there will be some “sneaky” free agents for 2023, as Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox wrote on Saturday, Nov. 26.

One of those listed by Knox happens to be Ebukam himself.

The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder has struggled with injuries during his time at SF — including a recent quad injury.

However, The Athletic’s David Lombardi tweeted on Black Friday that Ebukam was on his way back.

Ebukam was the one who helped start the “hunting season” for the 49ers’ defense against quarterbacks, as he became the first defenseman to record a sack in 2022.

Knox believes Ebukam’s continued progress and impact on the 49ers should have teams monitoring him, especially those looking for edge-rush help for 2023.

“San Francisco 49ers pass rusher Samson Ebukam missed the last two games while battling quad and Achilles problems. Teams will want to follow him to see if he recovers and resumes the strong play he showed earlier in the season,” Knox said.

Ebukam has played a total of 318 defensive snaps with the 49ers this season, including 193 in pass-rush situations, according to Pro Football Focus. He may not be a household name like Nick Bosa or even considered a starter. But Knox recognizes its impact.

“Ebukam has never been a top-flight edge rusher, but he was quietly very good,” Knox wrote. “He’s logged 4.5 sacks in each of his last three seasons, two with the Los Angeles Rams and one with the 49ers in 2021.”

How deep are the 49ers in the trenches?

The moment a team learns that a 49er defenseman is available through free agency, the money comes from other teams to lure him in.

Arden Key earned a $4 million deal from the Jacksonville Jaguars after recording career-best sack totals as a 49er. DJ Jones signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Denver Broncos after establishing himself as a strong three-handling defenseman for the Niners. Even Kerry Hyder landed his biggest two-year contract with the Seattle Seahawks, worth $6,800,000, after posting a career-best 8.5 sacks with the 49ers — and has since returned to SF

Again, Ebukam plays on a loaded defensive line that not only consists of Bosa but has seen Hyder, Kevin Givens, Charles Omenihu, Drake Jackson and Hassan Ridgeway all play their part in wreaking havoc on the 49ers’ DL rotation . However, Ebukam has dealt his own damage the moment he fires from his stance.

“In the first eight weeks of this season, the 27-year-old had 3.5 sacks to go with 29 tackles and eight quarterback pressures. He did this while mostly playing on a rotational basis (63 percent of defensive snaps),” Knox wrote.

Ebukam snapped eight sacks in a 49ers uniform, according to Pro Football Reference. But he has a strong shot at matching or surpassing his previous season’s best sack count of 4.5 and surpassing his top tackles with a total loss of six in 2018 with seven games remaining… earning him the Sneaky Good Free label Agent” for the next brings cycle.

“In the first eight weeks of this season, the 27-year-old had 3.5 sacks to go with 29 tackles and eight quarterback pressures. He did this while mostly playing on a rotational basis (63 percent of defensive snaps),” Knox wrote.

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