Sakamoto: Why 49ers’ Should Target DE Muhammad Wilkerson In Free-Agency


One of the San Francisco 49ers most pressing needs heading into this off-season is finding an elite pass-rusher. Sure the team has third-year OLB Aaron Lynch, but in today’s NFL they need more help up front especially at defensive-end.

The team was hoping that DE Tank Carradine would be that guy, but unfortunately for him that hasn’t panned out, as it appears he’s better suited in the standard 4-3 base defense. And while the team has DE Quinton Dial, whom I believe is the team’s best run-stuffer at the point of attack from the four-technique, he needs more help, as rookie first-round pick (No. 17) DE Arik Armstead is still learning the nuances of DC Eric Mangini’s defense.

The loss of DE Justin Smith has clearly hurt the team from a pass-rushing standpoint, as he was an absolute monster down in the trenches — and that’s where I believe the team should focus on in free-agency, as New York Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson is scheduled to become an unrestricted free-agent.

Wilkerson broke off contract negotiations with the Jets earlier this year while missing voluntary workouts as the two sides were unable to reach an agreement. That leaves the door open for him to test the free-agent market if the Jets do not slap the franchise-tag on him. A big ‘if’ considering Wilkerson is ranked as my No. 2 defensive-end from a 3-4 base in the NFL (right behind Houston Texans DE J.J. Watt) the addition would do wonders for the 49ers defense.

A scenario that could easily play out, as the Jets already accounted for the loss of Wilkerson by drafting DE Leonard Williams (No. 6) overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, it’s a scenario that could come into play, as the 49ers look for All-Pro talent.

The addition of Williams created an insurance policy in case Wilkerson departs and the team seems okay with that since they also have 2013 AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and 2014 Pro Bowl DE Sheldon Richardson anchoring the other side.

So should Wilkerson hit the free-agent market, should the 49ers target? I believe so. He would be an instant upgrade at the position while providing a much needed pass-rush from the four-technique all while also displaying enough versatility to kick inside at the nose.

The 49ers are already heavily invested in Armstead, but adding a talent like ‘Mo’ to the fold clearly makes sense from not only a business standpoint but for a team desperate for leaders. The 49ers are still looming on whether to re-sign pending free-agent NT Ian Williams, and if he departs — Mo would be the perfect fit, as Dial can then be moved back inside at nose tackle.


If the 49ers are truly invested in returning to Super Bowl form, they will need to spend the necessary money to make that a possibility. Whether that’s re-signing Williams or adding an All-Pro talent like Wilkerson — changes need to be made, as the 49ers try to restore the glory days of the past.

The Temple product has lived up to the hype since being selected in the first-round (No. 30) of the 2011 NFL Draft. In 76 regular season games, Wilkerson has recorded 295 tackles, 36.0 sacks, and 9 forced fumbles all while being named to this year’s Pro Bowl (his first).

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Ryan is the Founder/CEO of, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at or call him at (408) 622-0996.