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49ers Javon Hargrave
NFL

Do 49ers Have NFL’s Best Defense After Javon Hargrave Signing?

  • Justin Melo
  • March 13, 2023
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The San Francisco 49ers are signing free-agent defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to a four-year contract worth $84 million, according to multiple reports. Hargrave will earn an annual average salary of $21 million and receive $40 million in guaranteed money. Hargrave represented the first major domino of Monday’s legal tampering period. The 49ers continue to get richer on the defensive side of the ball and currently roster the best defense in all of football.

Hargrave now joins a 49ers defense that allowed a league-low 16.3 points per contest in 2022. San Francisco’s defensive outputs were boosted by a second-ranked run defense (77.7/game). Primarily a pass-rusher though, Hargrave recorded a career-high 11.0 sacks in 2022, helping the Eagles total an NFL single-season record 70.0 quarterback takedowns. Hargrave accounted for an additional 57 pressures and 40 hurries, per Pro Football Focus.

Hargrave will take up space on a downright terrifying defensive line next to Arik Armstead and Joey Bosa, the latter of which led the NFL with 18.5 sacks in 2022. It’s a pick-your-poison approach as opposing offensive line units must decide who to double team and who to allow one-on-one matchups. There’s no winning strategy to be located. Behind them is the league’s best off-ball linebacker in Fred Warner.

The 49ers as a unit accounted for 44.0 sacks in 17 regular-season contests. It’s a respectable number of quarterback takedowns, but there’s room for improvement—improvement Hargrave should immediately provide. It’s also worth acknowledging the 49ers are preparing to lose several pass-rushers in free agency, including Samson Ebukam and Charles Omenihu.

Signing a 30-year-old Hargrave that is coming off a personal-best campaign reiterates San Francisco’s hunger to win immediately. The 49ers have been close-but-no-cigar to winning a Super Bowl throughout the Kyle Shanahan era. Adding an elite talent like Hargrave gets them closer to achieving the ultimate goal.

When signing Hargrave, San Francisco boosted their postseason chances while wounding the Philadelphia Eagles, the conference’s 2022 champion. It’s an underrated aspect of San Francisco clearly identifying Hargrave as their No. 1 priority in free agency. The Eagles expected to lose Hargrave in free agency, but they certainly hoped he’d land with an AFC team or a non-contender in the NFC. That dream didn’t come to fruition.

New 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks also inherited a new weapon to deploy in Hargave. A strong-minded leader that’s replacing DeMeco Ryans in San Francisco, Wilks has received head coaching interest elsewhere. With Hargrave now also in the fold, Wilks’ stop in San Francisco could be a short one en route to greener pastures.

49ers general manager John Lynch entered Monday with a modest $5.7 million in salary cap, per Spotrac. Signing Hargrave to a four-year deal will allow the 49ers to minimize Hargrave’s 2023 cap hit. Even still, a contract restructure or two will likely be completed to create financial breathing room.

Who will serve as San Francisco’s starting quarterback in 2023 still remains a question. Brock Purdy and Trey Lance, who both suffered serious injuries in 2022, are expected to compete for the starting job. On Monday, Lynch refused to tamper his team’s expectations despite those question marks. Signing a game-changer like Hargrave leaves no room for doubt. It’s still Super Bowl or bust in San Francisco.

Written By

Justin Melo