49ers GM Says There’s No Plans to Deal Away Oft-Injured Ex-1st Rounder

John Lynch wasn’t just scouting for future San Francisco 49ers at his alma mater’s Pro Day. The general manager also addressed the future of Javon Kinlaw while at Stanford on Wednesday, March 22.

Fans and analysts began to ponder if the oft-injured Kinlaw would become a trade candidate following the blockbuster signing of Javon Hargrave to a four-year, $84 million deal. However, Lynch told 49ers insider Cam Inman of Bay Area News Group that the franchise plan to hang on to Kinlaw for the fourth and final season of the rookie deal he signed in 2020.

Back on February 19, there was the report from Matt Barrows and David Lombardi of The Athletic that the 49ers were unlikely to pick up a fifth year option for Kinlaw.

“Kinlaw played just three games last season before his knee began acting up, and the 49ers have to consider a more dependable starting defensive tackle,” both wrote.

But per Lynch’s conversation with Inman, Kinlaw his doing better returning from his surgically repaired knee this offseason and is now viewed as a depth piece for the deep 49ers defensive line that now features the “gravedigger.”

“That will allow defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw to work part-time in a robust rotation,” Inman wrote. “Kinlaw, by the way, is starting this offseason with a healthier knee than in past years. The 49ers have no designs to trade him ahead of the fourth (and final) year of his rookie contract.”

By opting to avoid trading Kinlaw, this gives the 49ers interior defender a chance to put together a full season in a contract year. He’s only played in 24 games across three seasons with 22 starts per Pro Football Reference. The most number of starts he’s delivered were 12 in his rookie season.

Lynch Explained Hargrave Addition & the Process in Courting ‘Gravedigger’

Also in his conversation with Inman, Lynch explained the approach in getting the prized free agent Hargrave on board.

It was a simple but effective one: Go after him really hard right away.

“You don’t get much of an opportunity [in free agency] because the window is so defined and short,” Lynch told Inman at Stanford Pro Day. “When we went, we went really hard. We didn’t soft-shoe into it. We went right in there, and let him know our opportunity and vision.”

Lynch even admitted that his proud defensive line “had fallen off a little” toward the end. The 49ers only produced one sack against the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles in the final two playoff games — and none were from NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa.

Lynch Checked in on Another Fast-Rising Defender

Lynch and the 49ers don’t appear to be done with adding to the defensive line room. They took a short drive to San Jose State for the Spartans’ Pro Day, also held on Wednesday.

Per the 49ers insider Barrows, the general manager and assistant GM Adam Peters went to Silicon Valley for the big attraction there: Edge rusher Viliami Fehoko Jr.

The 6-foot-4, 282-pounder was the reigning Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year and ended his SJSU career earning three straight nods to the conference’s All-Pro team. Fehoko reportedly ran a 4.75 in his 40-yard dash.

Here’s what could win over Lynch and the 49ers: He told 49ers analyst Brad Graham of The SFNiners that he’s been inspired by the play of fellow Tongan Talanoa Hufanga.

#SJSU Edge Viliami Fehoko Jr on watching fellow Tongan #49ers Talanoa Hufanga have success in the NFL pic.twitter.com/MxzdkB052L

— Brad (@Graham_SFN) March 2, 2023

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