In September of this past season, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn expressed his frustration about the many injuries of Jeremiah Attaochu.
"At some point we'd like to see what he can do," Lynn told reporters. "He's been rehabbing since I've been here, so I know he can rehab."
Attaochu, signed by the 49ers this week as a free agent after four seasons with the Chargers, has a definite upside. The 6-foot-3, 252-pounder, a former second-round pick from Georgia Tech, is quick and athletic and is an excellent pass rusher. In 2015 he had six sacks as an outside linebacker/defensive end in the Chargers' 3-4 scheme and has 10 sacks in 13 NFL starts.
But the 25-year-old played just four games in 2017 and eight in 2016 and missed five in his rookie season of 2014. He's played just 38 of 64 possible regular-season games, sidelined by a variety of injuries, including a high ankle sprain, a broken foot and hamstring injury. Last season, too, he was a healthy scratch for several games.
Now the 49ers have given Attaochu a one-year deal worth as much as $5.125 million and plan to use him as a defensive end in pass-rush situations. General manager John Lynch believes the former Charger has a chance to make an impact at the "Leo" defensive end spot, and the one-year deal could be a low-risk, high-reward move for the Niners.
"Jeremiah has been quite disruptive during his career despite his limited opportunities playing behind some top-tier defensive ends," Lynch said, according to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. "He is a wonderful fit for our scheme and our locker room. We expect Jeremiah to be productive on defense, while also providing us an exceptional player on special teams."
One of the 49ers' priorities going into 2018 is to improve their pass rush. They had just 30 in 2017 (tied for 26th in the NFL).