49ers Off-Season: In Search Of a Golden Pass Rush

Joseph BurkeyAnalyst IFebruary 9, 2010

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 20:  Julius Peppers #90 of the Carolina Panthers against the Minnesota Vikings at Bank of America Stadium on December 20, 2009 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 49ers have a perfect Gold Rush - the beautiful women who make us smile even during a 45-10 blowout-loss.  But the beauties catering to loyal fans need no improvement, and given the team's 6-2 home record last season, the lovely ladies might be considered the team's MVPs.

But, joking aside, the issue to be addressed here is improving the 49ers pass rush this off-season. 

There are several reasons, and several ways this should and could be done.

Why? The 49ers were torched in several games for several big plays last year.  The deep passes completed, however,  were not a product of the defensive backfield.  Though that's were the completions occurred and the yardage was measured, it was the time given to opposing Quarter-Backs that allowed receivers to get open, and the QBs to make exceptional throws to them.

It's not all bad; there were times where success peeked through the clouds.  They hassled Peyton Manning in their game against the Colts, something no other team really did this year.  They ended up third in the NFL in sacks - but almost a quarter of those came against the Lions and Rams. They had chances to shut down many potent offenses over the 2009 season, but the lack of a severe pass rush had their strong and growing secondary looking mediocre and getting winded trying to cover receivers running endless routes around the field.

So to not make a well-above-average secondary look like fools, the pass rush must be fixed this year.  There are several ways the team could go about this.

Trade:  Trading draft picks for players, and players for players has its advantages.  Quid-pro-quo deals are a way many a franchise in many a sport have formed bargains to improve both teams with one deal.  It's mostly a matter of finding a team in need of a commodity you have who happen to have the goods you need.  Essentially, any player in the league could be targeted in a trade, players and picks can be swapped around (pending contract no-trade-clauses, a teams willingness to part with a given player, NFL league trade review process, etc. ) equally and draft picks are a commodity the 49ers are fairly rich in this year.

I know I can dream on, but here are a few pass- rushers I wouldn't mind trading a pick or two for, starting with the most untouchable: Jared Allen, DeMarcus Ware, James Harrison, Andre Carter, Joey Porter, Clay Matthews, Brian Orakpo, Tamba Hali, Calvin Pace.

Draft:   Drafting pass-rushers in early rounds, is a high-risk, high-reward situation. Many college pass rushers are forced to change position once the reach the NFL, due to the size of the professional blockers they face. They are thus often turned from D-tackle to D-end, from End to Linebacker, and even from Linebacker to Strong Safety.  Although good young pass rushers bring aggressive energy and youthful resilience, they are often unrefined in technique and lacking in discipline.  Nevertheless, they can often be immediately effective if they are correctly motivated and well coached.  here are my most draftable pass rushers in this years draft: Ndamukong Suh (duh!) Jason Pierre-Paul, Carlos Dunlap, Sergio Kindle, Greg Hardy, Corey Wooten, Sean Weatherspoon.

The Free Agent Market:   This might be one of the better years to seek out a pass rusher in the Free Agent Market; several good ones are very available. Free agents are NFL proven as to what they can and can't do.  You don't need to give up a player to get them, and they typicaly fit into a team's defensive schemes seamlessly.  Here are my top 3 free-agent pass rushers, in no particular order:

Elvis Dumervile: He could benefit the 49ers pass rush greatly. He explodes at the QB from the outside and causes chaos in the backfield. He led the league with 17 sacks and forced four fumbles.  A restricted free agent for Denver, he should command a high price tag this year. 

Tully Banta-Cain:  A local, he grew up in Mountain View, played for Cal. The man has  sports in his blood as well; he is the cousin of former NBA Forward Rodney Rodgers, and former MLB Outfielder Jeffrey Leonard. Banta-Cain already had a a stint with SF in 2007, and didn't do well. In all fairness, however, no 49ers did well in 2007. Just as he went back to New England for a second go-around, I could see him coming back to the Bay Area, and flourishing on a vastly improved SF defense. 

Julius Peppers: The biggest buzz is about the big man.  Peppers stands out as a free-agent freak this year. His desire to play the role of a 6'7 280 lb OLB is a great fit for SF.  His supposed 'lack of motivation' isn't likely to be a problem under Coach Singletary, and his price, although on would expect it to be steep, shouldn't be a deal breaker in an uncapped year.  

When Singletary addressed the team's needs about a year ago, he mentioned several positions, but what stands out after the 2009 season is when he added "And a pass-rusher. You can never have too many of those."