The San Francisco 49ers have a tradition of investing in improving their defensive line ever since coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch took over in 2017. When they reached a trade agreement with the Denver Broncos on Friday that will bring edge rusher Randy Gregory to the Bay Area, they did it once more.
The Broncos traded Gregory to the Niners along with a 2024 seventh-round pick for a 2024 sixth-round pick, the two teams declared.
“Two years ago, when we played them in Dallas, he was as good of a rusher as we had gone against,” Shanahan said. “Being able to add a guy like that, we feel he will make our team better and that’s why we didn’t hesitate to do it.”
The finances of the deal were a crucial component. According to the arrangement, Gregory will receive the veteran minimum salary from the Niners during that period while the Broncos will pay him nearly $10 million for the remainder of the season, according to sources who spoke to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Although Gregory still has three years left on his contract, nothing is assured past 2023.
Despite having over $40 million in salary cap room, the 49ers want to carry much of that over to subsequent seasons so they can re-sign important players like wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who will be in the fifth year of his rookie contract in 2024.
“That’s why we felt extremely good about it,” Shanahan said. “Especially making a trade just having to flip sixth and seventh and not hurt anything moneywise. So, we feel fortunate to have him on our team.”
After a week of rumors regarding Gregory’s future with the Broncos, the agreement is now finalized. After requesting a release earlier in the week, Gregory and his reps were not present at Denver’s practice facility, sources told ESPN.
Before the Broncos and Niners came to an agreement on a deal, Broncos head coach Sean Payton recognized that a move with Gregory was inevitable and that doing so was “something we felt was just best for our team right now timing-wise.”
On Friday afternoon, Gregory landed in the Bay Area to meet Shanahan and the club. He showed up during the middle of practice to get his physical. He won’t participate in Sunday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys since he is going back to Denver on Friday night. On Monday, he will then join the Niners.
The Niners intend to waive veteran defensive tackle Kerry Hyder Jr. to make place for Gregory. This action is anticipated to take effect on Saturday.
The acquisition of Gregory on Friday afternoon caused a small buzz in the San Francisco locker room. Trent Williams, a left tackle who spent many years competing against Gregory when Gregory was with the Dallas Cowboys and Williams was with the Washington Commanders, saw it as a perfect match.
Gregory, 30, and the Broncos agreed to a five-year, $70 million contract in March 2022. But last week, outside linebacker Nik Bonitto replaced him in the starting lineup against the Chicago Bears. Against the Bears, Gregory took part in 33 snaps and recorded three tackles and a quarterback hit. Gregory has made nine tackles and one sack in his four games so far this season.
Gregory will join end Nick Bosa, tackles Javon Hargrave and Arik Armstead on the Niners’ defensive line. After Samson Ebukam and Charles Omenihu left for free agency in the summer, San Francisco has been looking for a quick replacement for Bosa.
Only four sacks have been recorded by the Niners defensive ends in the first four weeks, with three coming from Drake Jackson in the first week. Gregory should have the chance to supplement Bosa on third down in San Francisco with a quick edge rush.
The Niners have made a number of audacious moves to improve their defensive line, and this is just the latest. The Niners selected a defensive lineman with their first pick in each of the following drafts: 2017, 2019, 2020, and 2022. Additionally, they traded a second-round pick for end Dee Ford and signed him to a large contract for 2019. They also signed Bosa, Hargrave, and Armstead to costly contracts.
Gregory has 19.5 sacks and 81 pressures in nine seasons with the Cowboys (seven) and Broncos. Injuries prevented him from playing a full season, and he missed 54 games due to suspensions for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
Before finalizing the transaction, the Niners done their homework on Gregory’s suspension record, according to Shanahan.