Without question, the San Francisco 49ers will be looking to bolster their defensive line during the offseason after a rough late-season stretch of line play in 2012. Justin Smith's triceps injury coupled with a lack of production from the rest of the defensive line during his injury has forced the 49ers front office to zero in on its biggest need.
Not to mention the fact that Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois are both scheduled to hit the open market in eight days. Fans and media members alike have been quick to mock Day 1 and Day 2 draft picks to San Francisco for that reason.
However, it appears as if Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh would like to add some help from a few potential free agents instead of solely relying on the draft.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the first free-agent prospect they will look at is Cullen Jenkins. Jenkins is an eight-year pro who has played in both the 4-3 and 3-4 over the course of his career. As a member of the Green Bay Packers (2004-2010) he had the most productive season of his career in 2010 as a 3-4 defensive end.
He tallied eight quarterback sacks, 10 quarterback hits and 28 quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. Moreover, he collected 16 defensive stops against the run. This ultra-productive season spring-boarded him to become one of the hottest free-agent commodities to hit the market following the 2010 season. Green Bay couldn't afford to keep him, which ultimately led to the Philadelphia Eagles signing him to a five-year, $25 million contract.
The 4-3 defense in Philadelphia seemed to suit him just as well as the 3-4 did, yet the Eagles decided he was no longer a good fit after Chip Kelly took over for Andy Reid.
During his two-year tenure in The City of Brotherly Love, Jenkins amassed 10 quarterback sacks, nine quarterback hits and 50 quarterback hurries. So it's quite obvious that he still has plenty of pass-rushing ability left in the tank.
Obviously, just like any other pass-rusher, he plays at a higher level when he has comparable talent around him. Losing Jason Babin late last season hurt his numbers considerably, but it doesn't sound like the dip in production has hurt his market value one bit. Per Marc Sessler of NFL.com, Jenkins reportedly has six-plus suitors in line for his services.
Which leads me to the question that is on everyone's mind: What could he potentially bring to the 49ers, and is he worth the money that they would have to pay him?
In short, the answer is no. He may be worth the money if he was a starter on the 49ers defensive line, but based on the talent they already have there, he's not beating out Smith or Ray McDonald anytime soon.
Yet, if San Francisco was able to get him at a discounted price because of the market potentially going dry on him, then the organization should be all for it. He has never played the run all that well given his skill set, but as I mentioned before, he rushes the passer incredibly well for a man of his size. Plus, he can do it from both the left defensive end spot and the right defensive end spot in the 3-4.
The potential addition of Jenkins would give the 49ers some flexibility based on the rotation of players Vic Fangio uses on defense. Last year both Smith and McDonald played over a 1,000 snaps each—a number that will have to seemingly come down for each player in 2013. The Cowboy is no spring chicken anymore at 33, and the former third-round pick out of Florida will be 29 in September.
So Jenkins would be an ideal acquisition for the sake of depth alone, but San Francisco's cap situation may put a kibosh on any big-name free-agent acquisition. With the way the cap number sits right now, it would be wise of the front office to lock him up for no more than two years at a price range between $2 million and $3 million annually.
Although, it's unlikely a signing would take place at that price. His market value is high right now; however, weirder things have happened in the past. Jenkins may get the itch to play for a contender, and may take less money to do so.
With his scheduled visit taking place on Tuesday, we could easily learn of his intentions sooner rather than later.