A season without Nick Bosa and Dee Ford saw the pass rush of the San Francisco 49ers decline massively.
The only production the 49ers got off the edge was thanks solely to Kerry Hyder Jr. Unfortunately for them, Hyder is a free agent and his success in 2020 most likely priced himself out of the 49ers' comfort zone. Hyder is sure to be a coveted pass rusher in free agency, which will only raise his value with competitive offers.
Since it is a stretch that he will be back with the 49ers, the team is now put in a pinch. Edge rusher is once again an offseason need for the 49ers. Even with Bosa returning in 2021, there has to be some concern coming off a torn ACL. But lets say he does come back as if nothing ever happened. There is still a need for an edge rusher because of "Mr. Fragile" Dee Ford.
Ford's back injury has been such a mystery as the 49ers have been relatively tight lipped about his recovery. You just have to wonder if he will even play football again or if he wants to. Regardless, the 49ers cannot wait on Ford. He is too unreliable. They have to start exploring their options at the position.
Free agency is not where they can do it.
The salary cap is still going to be low this year, so the 49ers have to micromanage where their dollars are being invested at. Not to mention that they have some key players of their own hitting free agency that they will have to get in a bidding war for. Trent Williams and Jason Verrett being re-signed seems like a fantasy at this point. It is either one or the other, and it is possible the 49ers could lose out on both.
Careful maneuvering is going to be necessary for the 49ers this offseason. It won't be easy, but they have demonstrated a proficient method into getting contracts of players to work out in their favor.
If free agency is a pipe dream into addressing edge rusher, then it has to be the draft. It is the only option where the 49ers do not have to be concerned about cash. The only issue is being able to find adequate talent because I doubt the 49ers look to draft an edge rusher in the first round or even the second round. Then again, Kyle Shanahan does love to draft defensive line early, so there is a chance.
It is situations like this that makes Jimmy Garoppolo a constant hot topic. With his contract draining the salary cap, the 49ers are not in a position to bring back multiple star players. If he takes a cut, or possibly gets released, then they suddenly have a strong supporting cast going into 2021. But obviously, they are left without an answer at quarterback.
This offseason is arguably the most crucial one the 49ers have had in recent memory. One errant decision could cap how far they go in 2021. Edge rusher is a need for the 49ers and it is one that they know cannot go unchecked. But with other pressing positions like left tackle, center, and cornerback, they are stuck to make season determining decisions.
And if it goes wrong, then I would not be shocked to see general manager John Lynch be scapegoated if 2021 ends in a failure.