The 2024 NFL offseason has been quite interesting for the San Francisco 49ers. The team did not exactly make huge splashes, but they did make several significant moves to bolster their roster. As the dust settles, one transaction stands out not only for its potential impact but also for its inherent risks. The signing of defensive tackle Jordan Elliott has raised eyebrows and sparked debates among analysts and fans alike. While Elliott's talent is undeniable, the risks associated with this move could have far-reaching implications for the 49ers' upcoming season.

The 49ers So Far

An offseason without drama isn’t typical for the 49ers. This year's biggest drama involved a defensive tackle who was asked to take a pay cut. When he refused, the 49ers had to replace him.

The core of the team remains intact, of course. The offense added wide receivers through the draft in the first and fourth rounds and picked a lineman in the third round who is expected to compete for the starting right guard position.

Arik Armstead wearing a 49ers jersey next to a 49ers logo

The 49ers took a distinctive approach to their defensive line. As things stand, they emphasized quantity with the hope it would translate into quality. This strategy became necessary after Arik Armstead's departure and led to the acquisition of Maliek Collins and Yetur Gross-Matos. While Chase Young and Javon Kinlaw left, Jordan Elliott and Leonard Floyd were brought in to strengthen the line. In the secondary, Renardo Green is anticipated to play a crucial role. However, the standout addition could be Isaac Yiadom.

Looking back, how much can a team that held a double-digit lead in the second half of the Super Bowl improve in one offseason anyway? The health of their key players remains a critical factor. Most of the 49ers’ uncertainties revolve around player health. They are expected to have Talanoa Hufanga back in the secondary and Dre Greenlaw returning at some point -— both starters who are central to the defense's success.

Here we'll look at the one player who is the San Francisco 49ers' riskiest free agency move in the 2024 NFL offseason.

Jordan Elliott, DT

The 49ers brought in veteran Jordan Elliott on a two-year, $10 million deal. Sure, they also have newcomer Maliek Collins, who is more of an interior pass-rusher. However, the 6’4, 305-pound Elliott is seen as a run-stopper for the defense. In the past two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, he recorded eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He worked his way from a limited role in his first two years to a starting position by 2022.

Like Collins, Elliott comes from a defense similar to the 49ers. The Browns also utilized a four-man rush and similar alignments. With the release of veteran Arik Armstead and the departure of Javon Kinlaw, Elliott should provide support on the interior of the defensive line alongside Javon Hargrave.

Armstead Replacement?

If the 49ers defense had a liability last season, it was against the run, particularly up the middle. Despite having an elite defense overall, San Francisco's run defense was average. They allowed opponents to gain 4.1 yards per carry. The issue was particularly pronounced in games where Armstead was absent; he missed five games in 2023.

Armstead’s injuries over the past two seasons have been a significant issue. When healthy, though, he made a massive impact against both the run and the pass. Relying on either Collins or Elliott to replace Armstead might be a stretch.

Furthermore, Armstead was a longtime 49ers team captain and a respected locker room leader. Yes, the team has other veterans with playoff experience. That said, losing such leadership can affect the locker room's dynamic.

San Francisco hopes Armstead's departure doesn't significantly impact the defense and team overall, both in terms of statistics and unit cohesion.

Elliott's Expectations

Nov 5, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Jordan Elliott (96) celebrates a sack with defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson (94) and defensive end Ogbo Okoronkwo (54) during the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Elliott was the third defensive lineman to join the 49ers since the start of the NFL's “legal tampering period,” along with defensive ends Leonard Floyd and Yetur Gross-Matos. Entering his fifth NFL season, Elliott accumulated 98 tackles, five sacks, and eight tackles for loss during his time with the Browns.

Elliott comes to the 49ers with a history of battling immaturity but has taken steps in the right direction. He now has the opportunity to be part of one of the NFL's most talented defensive lines.

Again, Elliott is one of several new faces competing for spots on the interior of the defensive line. While Collins is likely a starter alongside Hargrave, Elliott should serve as a rotational player and primary backup. He will compete with Kevin Givens, Kalia Davis, TY McGill, and Evan Anderson during training camp.

Elliott probably has the edge over the other names. This means he could platoon with Hargrave and Collins, particularly in third-down pass-rushing situations where his physical prowess is more imposing. If he becomes a quality interior rusher who can accumulate sacks and tackles for loss in a reserve role, it will be a great signing for the 49ers.

However, if Elliott is primarily tasked with run defense, it could be more of a liability.

Looking Ahead

The 49ers' decision to sign Jordan Elliott is a classic high-risk, high-reward scenario. Sure, Elliott's physical tools and potential to be a disruptive force on the defensive line are enticing. However, his inconsistent performances present significant concerns. In all honesty, he may just not be good enough to make a major impact on this defense. The 49ers are banking on their coaching staff's ability to harness Elliott's talents, but if this gamble doesn't pay off, it could hinder their championship aspirations. As the 2024 season approaches, all eyes will be on Elliott to see if he can overcome his past struggles and emerge as a key contributor to the 49ers' quest for glory.