The 49ers will not be picking up defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw‘s fifth-year option, general manager John Lynch announced on Friday night (via ESPN’s Nick Wagoner). Lynch also confirmed reports that the 49ers would be picking up receiver Brandon Aiyuk‘s fifth-year option.
“I talked to both of them,” Lynch said. “Brandon, we’re going to exercise that fifth-year option. We won’t with Javon.
“I talked with Javon — still looking for great things from Javon. Javon is having an outstanding offseason. He’s in a great place and he’s excited about what’s to come, as are we for him.”
The 49ers were hoping that Kinlaw, the 14th-overall pick in the 2020 draft, would be able to replace Pro Bowler DeForest Buckner, who they dealt to the Colts. The rookie somewhat accomplished those goals, starting 12 of his 14 games while collecting 33 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and four QB hits en route to an All-Rookie Team selection. However, his 2021 campaign was cut short by a torn ACL, and he was limited to only six games in 2022 while dealing with persistent knee issues.
In those six contests, Kinlaw compiled only four tackles while playing about 40 percent of his defensive snaps. He didn’t play enough snaps to qualify for Pro Football Focus’ rankings among interior defenders, but his grade would have landed him very close to the bottom of the list.
The organization showed their hand earlier this offseason when they signed defensive tackle Javon Hargrave to a four-year, $84MM contract, putting Kinlaw’s future with the 49ers in doubt. While the 25-year-old is set to hit free agency next offseason, the 49ers are still expecting him to play a role in San Francisco, at least temporarily.
“Because of the injuries, maybe it hasn’t gone as well as we all might have anticipated or as well as it would’ve had he been healthy, that’s part of this thing,” Lynch said. “Now he is healthy. … He’s gonna be part of our rotation and we’re really excited about that.”