Javon Kinlaw

Jets DT Javon Kinlaw: 49ers Connections Influenced Free Agent Decision

One of many moves the Jets made in the early portion of free agency was the addition of defensive tackle Javon KinlawThe former first-rounder played out his rookie contract with the 49ers, and as such he had a pre-existing relationship with Jets head coach Robert Saleh. To no surprise, that connection influenced Kinlaw’s decision to head to New York.

“I’m glad we were able to get something done,” the 26-year-old said, via SNY’s John Flanigan. “I kind of banked on it coming into free agency. Saleh played a big part in drafting me in 2020. I always loved being around him and his energy because I could tell that he really believed in me.”

Kinlaw was drafted to replace DeForest Buckner, and he immediately had a starting role as a rookie. He managed to play 14 games that year, but a recurrence of his knee issues dating back to college limited him to just 10 contests between 2021 and ’22. After seeing his fifth-year option declined, the South Carolina product put together his first fully healthy campaign last season, setting himself up for a one-year. $7.5MM Jets deal.

The short-term nature of the New York agreement comes as no surprise given Kinlaw’s injury history. He managed to set a new career-high with 3.5 sacks in 2023, though, demonstrating the pass rush ability which generated his first-round draft stock. Reuniting with defensive line coach Aaron Whitecotton (who served as an assistant in San Francisco when Saleh was the team’s defensive coordinator) could allow Kinlaw to build off his success from last season.

The Jets have another ex-49er along the D-line in the form of Solomon Thomaswho had a productive first season in New York last year. The team also has Quinnen Williams and free agent addition Leki Fotu along the interior, meaning Kinlaw will have plenty of competition for playing time this season. If the latter can thrive under familiar coaches, though, he could prove to be an effective signing and help his free agent stock ahead of the 2025 offseason.

Contract Details: Young, Awuzie, Taylor, Rams, Cards, Chargers, 49ers, Lions, Texans

With free agency’s first wave in the rearview mirror, here is a look at some of the contracts authorized by teams in the days since the market opened:

  • Chidobe Awuzie, CB (Titans). Three years, $36MM. Contract includes $22.98MM guaranteed. Awuzie’s 2025 base salary ($11.49MM) is guaranteed for injury at signing, with $7.51MM of that total fully guaranteed. Awuzie being on Tennessee’s roster on April 1 of next year locks in the other $3.98MM. The veteran cornerback is a due a $1MM bonus on April 1, 2026, per KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson.
  • Darious Williams, CB (Rams). Three years, $22.5MM. Commanding a market, the recent Jaguars cap casualty’s second Rams contract can be worth up to $30MM, NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport tweets.
  • Chase Young, DE (Saints). One year, $13MM. The deal includes $7.99MM in per-game roster bonuses, CBS Sports Jonathan Jones notes. Including a $2.7MM base salary and a $1.86MM signing bonus, Young’s New Orleans pact is still heavily tilted toward games active. That will make the defensive end’s recovery from neck surgery worth monitoring more closely.
  • Tyrod Taylor, QB (Jets): Two years, $12MM. Taylor will see $8.5MM fully guaranteed, The Athletic’s Dan Duggan tweets. An additional $6MM in incentives are present in the veteran QB’s deal. Three void years are included here, dropping Taylor’s 2024 cap hit to $2.8MM.
  • DeeJay Dallas, RB (Cardinals): Three years, $8.25MM. Dallas will see $2.4MM guaranteed, Wilson tweets. The final two base salaries on this contract — both worth $2.4MM — are nonguaranteed. Rushing yards-based incentives run up to $750K per year in this deal.
  • Javon Kinlaw, DT (Jets): One year, $7.25MM. The ex-49ers first-rounder will receive a $5.5MM signing bonus, with KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson indicating the deal also includes $1.75MM in incentives.
  • Gus Edwards, RB (Chargers). Two years, $6.5MM. The ex-Ravens back will see $3.38MM guaranteed, Wilson tweets. Edwards’ $3MM 2025 base salary is nonguaranteed, with Wilson adding he is due a $125K roster bonus on Day 5 of the 2025 league year.
  • Noah Brown, WR (Texans): One year, $4MM. Brown re-signed with the Texans for $3MM guaranteed, per Wilson. The wideout’s second Houston contract can max out at $5MM.
  • Jon Feliciano, G (49ers). One year, $2.75MM. Feliciano will receive a $925K signing bonus, and Wilson adds $1.25MM in incentives are present in this accord.
  • Emmanuel Moseley, CB (Lions). One year, $1.13MM. Moseley will stay in Detroit for the veteran minimum, via the Detroit News’ Justin Rogers. Coming off a second ACL tear in two years, Moseley will receive a $1MM signing bonus. He received $6MM in 2023.

Jets To Sign DT Javon Kinlaw

Despite the 49ers planning to cut Arik Armstead, they are not re-signing Javon Kinlaw. Instead, the defensive coordinator in place when the team drafted Kinlaw will take a flier.

Kinlaw will sign a one-year contract with the Jets, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. This will reunite Kinlaw with Robert Saleh, who coached the former first-round pick in 2020. Saleh, who had also brought in Solomon Thomas from his 49ers days, will see if he can generate quality work from Kinlaw.

Injuries played the lead role in Kinlaw disappointing as a 49ers draftee. The South Carolina alum, brought in with the draft choice the Colts sent over for DeForest Buckner in 2020, struggled to stay healthy. Kinlaw missed 24 games between the 2021 and ’22 seasons, with knee trouble primarily plaguing the former No. 14 overall pick. But he did stay healthy last season, suiting up for all 20 49ers games.

Kinlaw appeared in 14 games (12 starts) in his rookie season, but he played in just four contests in 2021 before undergoing season-ending knee surgery (which was later reported to be an ACL reconstruction). While Kinlaw played well enough to land on the All-Rookie team in 2020, his knee trouble dates back to his college days. That will lead to this one-year agreement. Last season, however, Kinlaw totaled a career-high 3.5 sacks, adding two tackles for loss in the playoffs.

The Jets have Quinnen Williams anchoring their D-tackle contingent, but Thomas, Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods are free agents. San Francisco only used Kinlaw as a six-game starter last season. The Jets’ situation points to more DT pieces, probably at least one more starter-caliber option, being added this offseason.

2024 NFL Fifth-Year Option Tracker

NFL teams have until May 2 to officially pick up fifth-year options on 2020 first-rounders who are entering the final year of their rookie deals. The 2020 CBA revamped the option structure and made them fully guaranteed, rather than guaranteed for injury only. Meanwhile, fifth-year option salaries are now determined by a blend of the player’s position, initial draft placement and performance- and usage-based benchmarks:

  • Two-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternate Pro Bowlers) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag.
  • One-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag.
  • Players who achieve any of the following will get the average of the third-20th highest salaries at their position:
    • At least a 75% snap rate in two of their first three seasons
    • A 75% snap average across all three seasons
    • At least 50% in each of first three seasons
  • Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will receive the average of the third-25th top salaries at their position.

With the deadline looming, we’ll use the space below to track all the option decisions from around the league:

  1. QB Joe Burrow, Bengals ($29.5MM): Exercised
  2. DE Chase Young, Commanders ($17.45MM): Declined
  3. CB Jeff Okudah, Falcons* ($11.51MM): N/A
  4. T Andrew Thomas, Giants ($14.18MM): Exercised
  5. QB Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins ($23.2MM): Exercised
  6. QB Justin Herbert, Chargers ($29.5MM): Exercised
  7. DT Derrick Brown, Panthers ($11.67MM): Exercised 
  8. LB Isaiah Simmons, Cardinals ($12.72MM): Declined
  9. CB C.J. Henderson, Jaguars** ($11.51MM): Declined
  10. T Jedrick Wills, Browns ($14.18MM): Exercised
  11. T Mekhi Becton, Jets ($12.57MM): Declined
  12. WR Henry Ruggs, Raiders: N/A
  13. T Tristan Wirfs, Buccaneers ($18.24MM): Exercised
  14. DT Javon Kinlaw, 49ers ($10.46MM): Declined
  15. WR Jerry Jeudy, Broncos ($14.12MM): Exercised
  16. CB AJ Terrell, Falcons ($12.34MM): Exercised
  17. WR CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys ($17.99MM): Exercised
  18. OL Austin Jackson, Dolphins ($14.18MM): Declined
  19. CB Damon Arnette, Raiders: N/A
  20. DE K’Lavon Chaisson, Jaguars ($12.14MM): Declined
  21. WR Jalen Reagor, Vikings*** ($12.99MM): To decline
  22. WR Justin Jefferson, Vikings ($19.74MM): Exercised
  23. LB Kenneth Murray, Chargers ($11.73MM): Declined
  24. G Cesar Ruiz, Saints ($14.18MM): Declined
  25. WR Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers ($14.12MM): Exercised
  26. QB Jordan Love, Packers ($20.27MM): Extended through 2024
  27. LB Jordyn Brooks, Seahawks ($12.72MM): Declined
  28. LB Patrick Queen, Ravens ($12.72MM): Declined
  29. T Isaiah Wilson, Titans: N/A
  30. CB Noah Igbinoghene, Dolphins ($11.51MM): Declined
  31. CB Jeff Gladney, Vikings: N/A
  32. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs ($5.46MM): To decline

* = Lions traded Okudah on April 11, 2023
** = Jaguars traded Henderson on Sept. 27, 2021
*** = Eagles traded Reagor on August 31, 2022

49ers Won’t Pick Up DT Javon Kinlaw’s Fifth-Year Option

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.

[RELATED: 49ers To Pick Up 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.”

49ers Unlikely To Exercise DT Javon Kinlaw’s Fifth-Year Option

The 49ers are unlikely to exercise DT Javon Kinlaw‘s fifth-year option, as Matt Barrows of The Athletic writes (subscription required). Given that Kinlaw has played in just 10 regular season games over the past two seasons, that should be a fairly easy call for GM John Lynch.

Drafted in 2020 with the No. 14 overall selection — the pick that the 49ers acquired from the Colts in the DeForest Buckner trade — Kinlaw has battled intermittent knee trouble since his college days. He appeared in 14 games (12 starts) in his rookie season, but he played in just four contests in 2021 before undergoing season-ending knee surgery (which was later reported to be an ACL reconstruction).

Kinlaw, 25, opened the 2022 campaign as a starting defensive tackle alongside Arik Armstead, but he played just three games before more knee problems landed him on IR. He returned for the final three games of the regular season and started all three of San Francisco’s playoff contests, though his performance left much to be desired. Pro Football Focus assigned him an abysmal 36.7 run defense grade, and he also failed to replicate the interior pass rush presence that D.J. Jones offered before he signed with the Broncos last offseason. All things considered, then, it makes sense that the club would decline the chance to lock Kinlaw into a fully-guaranteed $10.5MM salary for 2024.

Kinlaw will, at least, get one more chance to rebuild his stock before hitting the open market. 10 of the 14 defensive linemen who played a snap for the Niners in 2022 are currently out of contract, and cutting Kinlaw would not result in any cap relief. Still, the club will probably search for DT reinforcements, as Kinlaw was hardly a world-beater even when he was mostly available as a rookie. Legal issues aside, Lynch could look to re-sign Charles Omenihu, though he may be too expensive to retain — PFF estimates a contract featuring a $9MM AAV — and Barrows says the team may want more of a run-stuffer anyway when it comes to DT options.

Lynch may also be on the hunt for DE upgrades. With Nick Bosa on one side of the line, San Francisco reportedly feels as if it should have a more elite edge rush, so the team could look to move on from Samson Ebukam and target a player like Yannick Ngakoue or Marcus Davenport, or it could consider a trade. Of course, the team is presently without a first- or second-round pick in the 2023 draft and does not have a ton of salary cap space, so it will be difficult to make too many high-end acquisitions. The 49ers will also hope that 2022 second-rounder Drake Jackson, who flashed as a rookie despite being a healthy scratch in five of the last six games of the season, will take a step forward.

49ers Activate DT Javon Kinlaw From IR

DECEMBER 23: Kinlaw is back on San Francisco’s active roster. The team has one IR activation remaining. It is expected to be used on running back Elijah Mitchell, who is out until January with his second MCL sprain of the season. San Francisco waived linebacker Curtis Robinson, one of its previous IR-return activations, to make room on its roster.

DECEMBER 22: The 49ers will soon be getting some reinforcement. Coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters (including Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury via Twitter) that he expects defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw to be activated for Saturday’s game the Commanders. GM John Lynch also expressed optimism that Kinlaw will be able to return from his lingering knee issues.

“He’s practiced really well, and everything’s holding up really well,” Lynch told KNBR’s Markus Boucher and Marcus Thompson today (h/t to 49ersWebzone.com). “Now, we’ve got to all kind of put our heads together, the medical folks, our health and performance staff, the doctors, and then our coaching staff and front office, and just talk about the best plan for him.

“It’s something that we’re in constant conversation [about], but it’s also fluid. You have to constantly monitor and think, What’s the best thing for Javon? What’s the best thing for our team? I think that stands for this week as well. But I do know it was a really welcome sight to have him out there. I know he’s very encouraged about how he feels.”

A torn ACL limited Kinlaw to only four games in 2021, but he managed to return from the injury in time for the 2022 regular season. The defensive lineman started three games for San Francisco before suffering more knee issues, leading to his placement on injured reserve.

The 2020 first-round pick earned PFWA All-Rookie Team honors after finishing with 33 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He’s been limited to only seven games over the past two years, collecting 10 tackles. The 49ers defensive line has lost Hassan Ridgeway and Kevin Givens to injuries recently, but the team will get some extra bulk with the return of Kinlaw and Arik Armstead.

49ers Designate DT Javon Kinlaw For Return

Knee trouble has defined Javon Kinlaw‘s NFL career thus far, with the player brought in with the draft choice obtained in the DeForest Buckner trade not coming too close to replicating his predecessor’s form. Kinlaw has been out since Week 3 with a knee injury.

The 49ers have not given up on the former first-round pick helping their cause again this season. They are opening the third-year defensive tackle’s practice window, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area tweets. This return designation will give the 49ers up to three weeks to evaluate Kinlaw in practice.

San Francisco placed Kinlaw on IR in mid-October, and his season was always expected to be impacted by the knee surgery he underwent. Knee trouble dogged Kinlaw at South Carolina, though he showed enough with the Gamecocks to entice the 49ers to take him at No. 14 overall. He only played in four games last season, and his knee issues led to reconstructive ACL surgery. Despite Kinlaw returning for Week 1, Kyle Shanahan acknowledged there would be ups and downs coming off this surgery. Year 3 has been a lot more “down” for the interior D-lineman.

Although the 49ers have formed the league’s No. 1-ranked defense, they have done so without their starting D-tackles for most of the season. Arik Armstead has missed all but six games this season, but the longtime San Francisco starter has since returned. Kinlaw coming back to join him would obviously represent a positive development for the 49ers, but given his persistent knee trouble, it cannot be assumed the 49ers will use one of their IR activations on him. The 49ers are also without D-tackles Hassan Ridgeway (strained pec) and Kevin Givens (MCL sprain), which puts Kinlaw’s status under the microscope now that he is set to practice again.

Two IR activations remain for the NFC West champions, who also have Elijah Mitchell and D-tackle Hassan Ridgeway — who had filled in as a starter for much of this season — on the injured list. Ridgeway is expected to be sidelined into January. Mitchell is battling his second MCL sprain this season, but the second-year running back could also potentially return in January. Should the 49ers activate Kinlaw, it would be an either/or call between Mitchell and Ridgeway.

49ers To Activate Elijah Mitchell, Azeez Al-Shaair, Colton McKivitz, Jordan Willis

NOVEMBER 11: The 49ers will be the first team to push up against the NFL’s new IR activation ceiling. They plan to activate Mitchell, Al-Shaair, McKivitz and defensive end Jordan Willis from IR, Kyle Shanahan said Friday, via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco (on Twitter).

With San Francisco having already used three of its injury activations — including one on Jason Verrett, who has since suffered another Achilles tear — the team will have one remaining beyond Week 10. Friday’s decision stands to affect how San Francisco manages its IR list going forward, as starting defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw is also on IR. Kinlaw is slated to return at some point this season, Shanahan said (via The Athletic’s Matt Barrows, on Twitter).

While the IR ramifications of Friday’s move will be interesting to monitor down the road, the team will have a host of key contributors back following its bye week.

NOVEMBER 7: Injuries and a rather notable trade defined the first half of the 49ers’ season, but the contending team will have some reinforcements available soon.

The 49ers designated running back Elijah Mitchell, linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair and backup tackle Colton McKivitz for return from IR on Monday. Each member of this trio is in the final stages of rehab from an MCL sprain. Of the three, Al-Shaair may be closest to returning. The fourth-year linebacker categorized himself as a bit ahead of schedule and expects to play against the Chargers on Sunday night, via ESPN.com’s Nick Wagoner (on Twitter).

San Francisco has already used three of its injury activations this season, so some more complex navigation may begin to come into play here. Under the NFL’s new IR-return system, teams are allotted eight activations per season. It is safe to assume Mitchell and Al-Shaair will be back, with the former set to complement Christian McCaffrey and the latter the team’s No. 3 linebacker behind Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw. It will be interesting to see if the 49ers activate McKivitz, who is the swingman behind Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey, or gives him the full three-week timetable partially to gauge how its injury situation looks later in November.

Mitchell began the season as San Francisco’s starting back but did not make it through Week 1. The 49ers found a talented player in last year’s sixth round, moving Mitchell past third-rounder Trey Sermon on their depth chart from the jump. The Louisiana product totaled 963 rushing yards in just 11 games as a rookie but has battled extensive injury trouble as a pro. Shoulder, rib, finger and knee injuries led to Mitchell missing six games last season.

After trading Jeff Wilson to the Dolphins, however, the 49ers are thinner at running back. Mitchell returning would help the cause. Third-round rookie Tyrion Davis-Price, who was not placed on IR following his high ankle sprain, should be expected to factor into the newly McCaffrey-headlined backfield equation soon as well.

Al-Shaair is in a contract year and saw the 49ers lock down Greenlaw. With Warner signed long term, Al-Shaair could be auditioning for other team’s during this season’s second half. He started 13 games last season but has been out since Week 3 this year. McKivitz started one game in place of Williams this year but went down with his knee injury. The former fifth-round pick is signed through 2023.

Arik Armstead Rehabbing Hairline Fracture

The 49ers figure to return from their Week 9 bye much healthier. They designated three players — Elijah Mitchell, Colton McKivitz, Azeez Al-Shaair — to return from IR and saw a few others return to practice this week. Arik Armstead was not in either group.

Armstead, who has not played since Week 4, remains sidelined. Kyle Shanahan specified what the veteran defensive lineman is battling for the first time this week, indicating Armstead is working his way back from a stress reaction and hairline fracture in his left fibula, Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes.

While not on the same level as a broken leg, this hairline fracture has defined Armstead’s eighth NFL season. The 49ers having not placed the former first-round pick on IR provides some indication the team expects him back, but Armstead has already missed four straight games because of this injury. Armstead, 29, also dealt with a foot injury this season. His absence has hurt the 49ers, who have shown elite defensive capabilities when they are relatively close to full strength.

San Francisco has been shorthanded at every defensive position over the course of this season. The team has been hardest at defensive tackle. Both Week 1 starters — Armstead and Javon Kinlaw — have missed much of this campaign. Still, San Francisco enters Week 10 ranked atop the league in total defense. During games Armstead has played, the 49ers are allowing 2.8 yards per carry. In games he has missed, the total ballooned to 3.8, per Branch.

Injuries plagued Armstead during the early part of his career. He missed eight games in 2016 and 10 in 2017. But the former No. 17 overall pick suited up for every 49ers contest from 2018-21. The 49ers re-signed Armstead to a five-year, $85MM deal on the same day — March 16, 2020 — they agreed to trade DeForest Buckner to the Colts. The elder Oregon alum has rewarded the 49ers’ faith, being a key part of their Nick Bosa-led defensive lines over the past four seasons. Pro Football Focus ranked Armstead as a top-20 interior D-lineman from 2019-21.

Kinlaw is on IR. Swelling and soreness in the former first-rounder’s surgically repaired did not recede as quickly as the team anticipated, according to The Athletic’s Matt Barrows (subscription required). The third-year D-tackle has been out since Week 3. The 49ers have used three of their injury activations already. Activating Mitchell, Al-Shaair, McKivitz and defensive end Jordan Willis, who returned to practice on Wednesday, would limit the team’s flexibility down the stretch. It would surprise to see all four activated, but each being back at practice puts that scenario in play. Those activations, as teams can only move eight players off IR this season, could affect Kinlaw’s chances of playing again this season. It will be interesting to see how the 49ers proceed here.

The 49ers released Dee Ford after he ran into chronic injury trouble. Kinlaw, who underwent reconstructive knee surgery during the 2021 season, has seen a lingering injury alter his career path as well. With Kinlaw acknowledging knee pain would be an issue again this season, his 2022 absence stands to have a bigger impact on his career compared to Armstead’s. The 49ers have used Kevin Givens and Hassan Ridgeway as their primary DTs this year. Kinlaw will be eligible to return to practice next week, though it is uncertain the South Carolina alum will be ready.