2021 NFL free agency grades: Samson Ebukam worth 49ers taking chance on

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Josh Schrock
·2 min read
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49ers free agency grades: Ebukam worth taking chance on originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The 49ers' pass rush just didn't have the juice in 2020. Like Popeye without his spinach, the 49ers -- sans Nick Bosa, the departed DeForest Buckner and the injured Dee Ford -- struggled to pressure the passer on a consistent basis, amassing just 30 sacks after recording 48 in 2019.

Bosa's return will undoubtedly help rectify some of their issues, but the 49ers know they needed more. More depth. More athleticism. More juice.

So they took a chance Monday when they reportedly agreed to a two-year, $12 million contract with soon-to-be-former Los Angeles Rams edge rusher Samson Ebukam.

In Ebukam, the 49ers are getting a 25-year-old elite athlete with a high motor who will be able to add to the 49ers' edge-rushing rotation immediately.

Last season, Ebukam ranked fifth among all outside linebackers in pressure rate at 14.7 percent, trailing only Markus Golden, T.J. Watt, Matthew Judon and Bradley Chubb. Pretty, pretty good.

Ebukam also had a higher pressure rate than Kerry Hyder Jr. (12.6 percent), who is expected to leave in free agency after leading the 49ers with 8.5 sacks last season.

The Eastern Washington product doesn't haven't the name recognition or body of work that Ford does, but he hasn't missed a game over the past four seasons while Ford has missed 30. The 49ers reportedly restructured Ford's contract hoping that he can play a role for them in 2021, but they can't bank on him being healthy.

Enter: Ebukam.

Ebukam has similar physical tools as Ford but is durable, which is something the 49ers have to take into account after their hellish 2020 season.

RELATED: 49ers free agency grades: Verrett a big win for 2021 hopes

Ebukam only played on 35.45 percent of the Rams' snaps last season as part of a deep group of rushers. In San Francisco, Ebukam likely will be a pass-rush specialist and be asked to win 1-on-1 matchups as teams focus on stopping Bosa on the other side.

With great physical gifts, Ebukam should become a favorite of defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, who will try to take the natural talent and mold it into a consistent edge-rushing threat opposite Bosa.

The 49ers lacked speed and explosiveness off the edge last season. They missed the juice that made them so feared in 2019. Bosa returning will cure a lot of things. But he needs help on the other side.

Ebukam has all the tools to be the edge-rushing presence the 49ers need opposite Bosa. You always gamble on elite athletes. The potential payoff for a guy with Ebukam's skills far outweighs any potential down side if the move busts.

Grade: B

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