The San Francisco 49ers signed defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to a four-year, $84 million contract. San Francisco made their first move in the 2023 NFL free agency period by signing star defensive tackle Javon Hargrave. The 30-year-old former Steelers and Eagles defender is coming off a massive two seasons in Philadelphia, totaling 18.5 sacks.
The 49ers gave Hargrave the same contract they refused to give to DeForest Buckner in 2020, which is a four-year, $84 million deal, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. We’re diving into what it means for Hargrave and the 49ers.
Javon Hargrave Lands Massive Contract With 49ers
The defensive tackle market received a massive shakeup Monday afternoon when the 49ers gave Hargrave a contract worth $21 million per season. Despite Hargrave being five years older than where Daron Payne and Buckner were when they signed their own massive contracts, this ties him for the third-highest deal at the position. The 6’2”, 305-pounder now becomes the key man in the middle of the 49ers’ defense.
Javon Hargrave Analysis: The 49ers Reload an Excellent Defense
With a large number of their players hitting free agency, including defensive players Jimmie Ward, Emmanuel Moseley, Azeez Al-Shaair, four edge rushers, and three interior defensive linemen, this allows the 49ers to continue building in ways that maintain their excellent defense.
This also presents a big upgrade over Javon Kinlaw, who has struggled in various ways with San Francisco to establish his credibility as an impact starter — both as a pass rusher and run defender. Hargrave is an excellent defender in every phase of the game, and he didn’t need to hit a career high in sacks last year in order to demonstrate that.
At the moment, this means the 49ers’ defensive front features Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Hargrave, and likely another edge rusher to be identified later. Regardless of who that final piece turns out to be, this turns San Francisco into having one of the most fearsome defensive fronts in football, one that should clog up running lanes and terrorize quarterbacks.
The issue, from the 49ers’ side, is that Hargrave isn’t young anymore. He’s playing at 30 years old this year and could fall off a cliff at any moment. There are a number of high-level defensive tackles that have played well past the age of 30, including Hargrave’s partner in Philadelphia, Fletcher Cox. But it’s not exactly uncommon to see players of his caliber begin to drop off.
The other concern is that many defenses are dependent upon the talent of their play-caller, not just the talent on the field. Having lost former defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans to the Houston Texans as their head coach, there’s uncertainty over whether San Francisco can turn this group of defensive talent into an elite defense again, especially with the backfield needing some new players.
Regardless, the net effect — especially in the short term — is a big boost up front for a team that will still find ways to generate the cap space needed to fill in the gaps left in their secondary. San Francisco may have some quarterback questions they have to answer, but the defense figures to be excellent once more.