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49ers free agency: Chiefs’ Houston chased Garoppolo, now joins market

SANTA CLARA – No need to tell the 49ers how menacing a pass rusher Justin Houston can be.
Houston played a pivotal role in the biggest play of the 49ers’ 2018 season, a play in which Jimmy Garoppolo sustained a season-ending knee injury as he fled Houston’s pass rush at Kansas City in Week 3.
The Chiefs released Houston on Sunday, making the eight-year veteran immediately available for the 49ers or others to start their bidding.
The 49ers certainly will be looking for pass rushers and defensive heroes in free agency this week. Negotiations can commence at 9 a.m. Monday and signings can begin Wednesday, but because Houston’s contract got terminated Sunday, he’s on the market now.
Houston, 30, was due to make $15.3 million in the penultimate year of his contract with the Chiefs, who earlier this month put the franchise tag on younger pass rusher Dee Ford. The 49ers and Green Bay Packers have expressed interest in trading for Ford, NFL Network reported Saturday.
Houston averaged nearly 10 sacks per season in his eight-year tenure with the Chiefs (78 1/2 sacks).
He had two sacks in the Chiefs’ Sept. 23 win. During the fourth quarter of that game, Houston slipped past right tackle Mike McGlinchey and pressured Garoppolo out of the pocket. Garoppolo escaped down the left sideline before tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Jimmy Garoppolo #10 of the San Francisco 49ers has his planted left leg buckle beneath him while rushing out of the pocket to the sidelines during the fourth quarter of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on September 23rd, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images) 
Houston is represented by Joel Segal, who also represents 49ers defensive linemen DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead.
Improving their pass rush is an obvious need for the 49ers defense, and some of the most obvious targets in free agency got taken off the market via the franchise tag, such as Ford.
But some obvious connections remain available.  Ziggy Ansah  (Detroit Lions), Dante Fowler (Los Angeles Rams), Shaquil Barrett (Denver Broncos), Shane Ray (Broncos) and Bruce Irvin (Atlanta Falcons) have ties to the 49ers coaching and personnel staffs.
Trey Flowers (New England Patriots), Anthony Barr (Minnesota Vikings), Za’Dardius Smith (Baltimore Ravens), Markus Golden (Arizona Cardinals) and Preston Smith (Washington) also are worth pursuing with some $70 million in salary-cap space.
San Francisco 49ers’ general manager John Lynch, left, and 49ers’ head coach Kyle Shanahan, right, both smile while talking to the media at the teams’ practice facility in Santa Clara, Calif., on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. (Randy Vazquez/ Bay Area News Group) 
General manager John Lynch wants an edge rusher with power and speed who will flourish in the “wide-9” technique under new defensive line coach Kris Kocurek.
Faster options might come in the younger frames of draft prospects. But enough veteran pass rushers are on the market that the 49ers surely will make a play for one or two, along with free agents at other positions of need such as wide receiver, linebacker and defensive back.
Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas will be rotate on the outside on run downs, then move on passing situations to the inside, where DeForest Buckner has blossomed into a Pro Bowl stud. Related Articles

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When Cassius Marsh and Dekoda Watson are the 49ers’ best edge rushers – their 2019 options were exercised last week — more help is needed, badly. Ronald Blair is an often-overlooked asset, and Pita Taumoepenu has had two years to bulk up for what should be better competition this offseason. Mark Nzeocha is a pending free agent.
Who’s here: Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, Cassius Marsh, Ronald Blair, Dekoda Watson, Kentavius Street, Pita Taumoepenu, Ryan Delaire, Kapron Lewis-Moore.

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