John Lynch shot his shot and it paid off in a big way for the 49ers this offseason.
San Francisco’s general manager spoke at the 49ers 2023 State of the Franchise event on Thursday, where he discussed how he and coach Kyle Shanahan evaluated the team after the 2022 season and which position group they looked to upgrade this offseason.
“You try and get a grasp on where can we be better and the thing we kept coming back to, on the defensive line –albeit the No. 1 defense in football — but we felt like we lost a little bit of our dominance on the D-line … we felt like, despite playing such good defense we had maybe fallen off a little,” Lynch said. “When we first got together, one of the first core principles we agreed on, we’re going to start up front on defense, those guys are going to drive the bus. That’s what we had built, we had felt like that has slipped a little.”
Heading into free agency, the 49ers already had one of the NFL’s best rosters but refused to be complacent. Lynch recalled one impromptu meeting at his house with 49ers CEO Jed York where he attempted to convince his owner to greenlight a move that would improve the defensive line.
“We knew we had to go get a difference maker, so when I got with Jed one Saturday at my house, Jed came over and Kyle and I had discussed … it felt like I was asking a girl on a date ‘here’s how I’m going to start the meeting, Kyle.’ “No, no don’t do it that way, do it this way,'” Lynch recalled.
“I was basically going to Father for confession asking for money. And I said ‘Jed, it would be a shame with this team to sit on the sidelines.’ Jed stopped me and said ‘Make sure it’s a difference maker.’ I said ‘OK, we’re on the same page because we got one for you.’ That was Javon Hargrave.”
The 49ers signed Hargrave to a four-year, $84 million contract in free agency, bolstering the defensive line and providing San Francisco with another elite weapon on defense.
As nervous as Lynch was for his meeting with the boss, York was fully on board and remains committed to winning and paying whatever price is necessary to do so.
“You’re looking in free agency, and you’re always going to spend top-dollar,” York explained at the State of the Franchise event. “And it’s like, well, do you want the third-best player for like 80 percent of the price? I’m like if we’re going to do it, just do it.
“We’re fortunate that we have good, young quarterbacks on our roster that help you be more flexible with the salary cap for the next few years. If you’re going to do it, spend next year’s money to get the guy that’s going to be here for the next three years and make a difference. We’re close, but if you’re going to do it, then go do it. It was clear who they wanted to get.”
In the end, the 49ers got their guy and fortified an area of their defense that helped lead them to a near-Super Bowl LIV victory over three years ago.
If they find themselves in a similar situation this season, the offseason splash — because of Lynch’s plea — could play a big role in another 49ers championship run.