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Could John Abraham add depth and sack potential to the 49ers?
Player: John Abraham
2012 Team: Atlanta Falcons
2012 NFL Salary: Three-year, $16.72 million. Atlanta released him after one year into the contract.
Justin Smith is not getting any younger. Neither is former Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham.
At 35 years old, Abraham is in the waning days of his NFL career.
Abraham entered the 2012 campaign still retaining the skill sets that helped him become a predominant defensive end in the NFL. During the season, the four-time Pro Bowler totaled 33 tackles and had 10 sacks (pro-football-reference.com). Despite his age, those numbers suggest that Abraham still has the stuff to be an impact player this late into his career.
The Falcons released Abraham, not because of his performance, but rather due to financial and salary cap constraints.
As one of the top remaining defensive linemen still available on the free-agent market, Abraham may provide a final piece to the puzzle that many teams' defenses would be looking to add.
Could the 49ers be one of those teams?
Evan Silva of Rotoworld.com reports that San Francisco has shown some interest in Abraham.
Regarding why Abraham has not yet signed with any team, Silva writes:
Even at age 35, Abraham remains a highly effective edge rusher with experience playing in both a two- and three-point stance. He can play both left and right end. To this point, the hang-up in negotiations has been Abraham's unwillingness to sign with a team that would use him in a part-time role. He wants to be at least a 60-percent player. Abraham likely also wouldn't accept less than Dwight Freeney money. The Chargers signed Freeney to a two-year, $8.75 million contract, with $4.75 million guaranteed.
It is probably safe to assume that Abraham will not get that kind of money at this stage of his career. The fact that he remains a free agent is an indicator that no NFL team is willing to make such a lofty investment in his services.
Yet those services may be something of worth if a team can get them at the right price and in the right situation. The 49ers could possibly offer both.
San Francisco already has two established defensive ends in Ray McDonald and Justin Smith.
While both Carradine and Lawrence Okoye may result in added depth behind McDonald and Smith, there is still the possibility that either, or both, starters may be hurt or fatigued at some point in 2013. San Francisco would probably like to put some established depth in the mix, and Abraham could fit the void.
The 49ers struggled with the pass rush late last season, and Abraham remains a pass-rushing aficionado.
If San Francisco was to sign Abraham, a few things would have to happen. First, Abraham would have to settle for far less money than he hoped for, as stated by Silva.
Second, Abraham would have to realize that his role diminishes on the 49ers' defense and that his sole job would be to provide veteran backup behind both McDonald and Smith.
Lastly, Abraham would also have to recognize that his tenure in San Francisco would likely be very short. He would be brought in to fill a specific void for a brief period only.
Until rookies like Carradine, Okoye and former Alabama defensive lineman Quinton Dial develop, Abraham would get some snaps. Once those rookies were ready to go, Abraham would likely be shown the door.
While San Francisco may be interested in developing long-term solutions on the defensive line, Abraham could fill an immediate need.