With the opening bell of the 2023 NFL calendar year officially sounded, teams can officially announce signings they agreed to with players during the legal tampering window but couldn’t publically acknowledge. Though the San Francisco 49ers have yet to officially announce any of their deals with external free agents, with the lone posts on the team’s website and social media instead welcoming back Tashaun Gipson and Jake Brendel on new contracts, that hasn’t stopped ESPN Sports Analytics Writer Seth Walder from grading John Lynch’s biggest move, signing Javon Hargrave formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles to a four-year, $84 million contract with $42 million guaranteed, according to reporting of ESPN Senior NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
“The 49ers’ defensive front is still stacked,” Walder wrote.” The Niners splashed out on a legitimate star in Hargrave to bolster a pass rush that already features reigning MVP Nick Bosa and tackle Arik Armstead. Hargrave is a difference-maker; his 11 sacks last season were a career-high, but it was backed up by a strong 17% pass rush win rate at defensive tackle — third-best in the league — which showed his impact on a play-to-play basis. And it wasn’t unique, as he ranked third in the metric in 2021 and sixth in 2020. The only downside to this deal is his age — he’s 30.”
Despite his age, Walder still appreciates what Hargrave brings to the table, when coupled with the financials, to give his signing a B+ grade, which is notably higher than the C he gave to the Atlanta Falcons for signing David Onyemata, the C he gave the Washington Commanders for re-signing Daron Payne, and the C he gave the Pittsburgh Steelers for re-signing Larry Ogunjobi.
Seth Walder Explains What Makes Javon Hargrave Valuable
Why did Walder like John Lynch’s decision to sign Hargrave when he was much less excited about the deals handed out to players like Payne? For the NFL analyst, it all came down to the contract’s value versus Hargrave’s “strong 17% pass rush win rate.”
“This is obviously a lot of money, but the deal is in line with or maybe a shade less than what we should expect in the market,” Walder wrote. “If we adjust for salary cap inflation, Hargrave’s deal is slightly pricier in terms of guarantees and APY than Grady Jarrett’s deal with the Falcons last year but slightly less expensive than DeForest Buckner or Chris Jones’ deals in 2020 or Jonathan Allen’s contract in 2021, according to historical contracts from OverTheCap.
“That’s a group that makes sense for Hargrave to be in, and he’s a better player than Allen and Buckner were at the time of their deals. Hargrave is also getting less guaranteed money and at a lower average than Daron Payne, who signed a four-year, $90 million deal Sunday, despite being better (but older).”
If Hargrave can live up to the standard he established in Philadelphia over the full four-year tenure of his contract, the team’s current deal will look like one of the signature signings of Lynch’s tenure in San Francisco. If not, only half of his contract is guaranteed, so the team should be able to get out of the deal without too much dead money should things start to fall apart at the end of his tenure.
The San Francisco 49ers’ New DT has a Decision to Make
Though far from the biggest decision on Hargrave’s mind as he prepares to move cross-country to join Steve Wilks’ defense, the 30-year-old defensive tackle will have to decide on a new number for his red and gold uniform, as 97, the number he wore in college and during his final two years with the Eagles, currently belongs to Nick Bosa.
Theoretically, Hargrave could reach out to Khalil Davis to see if he will switch out of 93, as the South Carolina-educated third-round pick wore that number with the Eagles in 2020, but one number that also will be off limits to the Steelers draftee is 79, his initial NFL number, as it was retired by the team in 2001 to celebrate the career of offensive tackle Bob St. Clair.