Kwon Alexander will have to live up to significant expectations with his record-setting new deal via NFL free agency for the San Francisco 49ers.
Just a couple of hours after the legal tampering period opened on Monday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Kwon Alexander is signing with the San Francisco 49ers. The deal is for 4 years worth $54 million and $27 million of that will be guaranteed.
A former 4th-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Alexander now becomes the highest paid inside linebacker in the NFL. With an average yearly salary of $13.5 million per year, Alexander surpasses Carolina Panthers MLB Luke Kuechly‘s current $12.3 million per year.
Coming off a torn ACL last season, many were uncertain how that would effect Alexander in the open market. Last season in the six games before the season-ending injury, Alexander had 45 tackles, 1 sack, 2 passes defended, along with 2 forced fumbles.
Why Alexander is getting a big deal from the 49ers
The 49ers were in desperate need for a replacement at inside linebacker. Former 1st-round pick Reuben Foster was released in the middle of last season following another domestic violence arrest. John Lynch, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneer himself, was a big fan of Alexander when Lynch was a FOX analyst. He was also around the Buccaneers organization a lot during Alexander’s first two years in the league.
An NFL Pro-Bowler in 2017, Alexander registered 97 tackles, 3 interceptions, and 1 forced fumble. His best season, however, was in 2016 which showed his real potential when healthy. In Alexander’s lone season playing all 16 games, he racked up 145 tackles, 3 sacks, and 1 interception.
What can Alexander bring to the 49ers
When you hear any Buccaneers players, coaches, or general manager Jason Licht speak about Alexander, they talk about his leadership and how he was the “heartbeat” of the defense. Alexander plays with passion and fire that is contagious. He is the type of player you want in your locker room. The Buccaneers by no means wanted Alexander to walk. However, cap issues and needs elsewhere made it impossible to contend with what San Francisco was willing to pay.
Alexander brings sideline to sideline speed for the 49ers defense. Speed they haven’t had at the linebacker spot since Patrick Willis. What the 49ers also need on defense is turnovers. Alexander has been responsible for 8 turnovers in the past four years in limited playing time. When healthy, Alexander is one of the better linebackers and is still only 24 years old. A hybrid defensive alignment would also play more to his strengths. The scheme allows Alexander to attack more while using his flexibility to be able to move around. Alexander’s soon to be new defense he will play in is similar to the defensive style he played in at Louisiana State University.
What does signing Alexander mean for the 49ers
The acquisition of Alexander allows them to have more flexibility in the draft. Edge rusher is the dominant need, and with the second overall pick, they can solve that. The reality is Nick Bosa, or Josh Allen would be available. If San Francisco wants to pull the trigger on either of those, they will create a dominant front seven.
San Francisco could also trade down a bit if they would like and add more picks while still taking advantage of the strong edge class. In the middle rounds, they no longer need to address linebacker and can draft a safety such as Delaware’s Nasir Adderley. Cornerback is another position the 49ers can look at to add as well.
In a division with the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers need all the defensive help they can get. Going against Sean McVay‘s high powered Rams offense and Seahawks QB Russell Wilson four times a year, San Francisco has the chance to put together a championship caliber defense to contend in the NFC West.