Editor’s note: This is Part III of a four-part series profiling unrestricted free agents the 49ers could pursue in 2018. Head to the home article for links to Parts I, II and IV.
Zach Brown, LB
Age in 2018: 29
Last deal: 1 year, $2.3M (Washington)
Despite being under 30 years of age and having once been named a Pro Bowler, Brown is surprisingly already a journeyman linebacker, having suited up for three NFL teams since 2012. He is a very well-rounded defender, though. Not only is he a tackling machine, he adds to the pass rush and can be trusted in coverage. If the 49ers don’t want to take a linebacker high in the draft, and still want a starting-caliber player in the mix with Reuben Foster and Malcolm Smith in case of injury, Brown would be a solid addition.
Kevin Minter, LB
Age in 2018: 27
Last deal: 1 year, $4.25M (Bengals)
Like Brown, Minter is not a superstar at linebacker. He’s not a centerpiece. But with Foster in house, he doesn’t need to be. Right now, Minter is a sound hard-hitting linebacker that could come in and adequately support Foster, and conceivably get better in the process. And as a 2013 second-round pick out of LSU who started his career with the Arizona Cardinals, there is clearly some base talent to work with. If signed, Minter would compete to start and could also find himself playing a role on special teams.
Paul Posluszny, LB
Age in 2018: 33
Last deal: 3 years, $15M (Jaguars)
Posluszny worked directly with 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who was the Jaguars linebackers coach from 2014-16. He was also teammates with Sheldon Day, Dekoda Watson and Zane Beadles. At the tail end of his career, it's possible Posluszny will only be seeking a short-term deal, perhaps on a team with a familiar face or two. He could play with or be the short-term insurance policy to Reuben Foster.
Demarcus Lawrence, DE
Age in 2018: 26
Last deal: 4 years, $5.5M (Cowboys)
Lawrence is playing dominant football in a contract year and is becoming a staple on the Dallas defense. It's unlikely he changes teams in the offseason. But, can the Cowboys afford him? They project to have just $8.6M in cap space in 2018, per Spotrac. The league’s highest-paid defensive end is Chandler Jones, who signed a five year, $82.5M contract with Arizona. Veteran Calais Campbell is still averaging $15M per year. And we know it would cost around $16.9M~ to franchise Lawrence. If there’s a financial snag, the 49ers should get involved.
Update: Dallas applied the franchise tag to Lawrence ahead of the deadline. He is unavailable.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE
Age in 2018: 29
Last deal: 4 years, $18.5M (Lions)
In 2015, Ansah finished third in the league with 14.5 sacks and was named to the Pro Bowl, as well as being named a second-team All-Pro. But he’s only had six sacks in 21 starts since. Once a fifth overall pick, Ansah entered the league at 24 years old. And with his rookie contract now expiring, he’s pushing 30. Maybe this recent stretch, as well as his age, influences the Lions when it comes to doling out a large contract. Ansah could potentially bring the outside rush the 49ers have been looking for.
Update: Ezekiel Ansah received the franchise tag from the Lions on Tuesday, February 27.
Junior Galette, OLB/DE
Age in 2018: 30
Last deal: 1 year, $800K (Washington)
Galette had back-to-back double-digit sack seasons in New Orleans in 2013-14. He recorded 22 over that stretch. But his career has been on a downward spiral since. He was the subject of a domestic violence incident in 2015 after previously having one in 2013. Galette's cumulative history of run-ins with the law makes him highly unpredictable. He also missed two seasons with consecutive Achilles tears and hasn’t done much since he returned. Washington isn’t even using him as a full-time player.
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