49ers DL Signed by NFC Super Bowl Rival Quickly After Being Cut

The 49ers certainly made it a point in the 2024 NFL offseason to revamp the team’s defensive line, which meant significant changes both on the interior and on the edges. Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Chase Young and Randy Gregory are gone, and in their place are edge rushers Yetur Gross-Matos and Leonard Floyd coming in, along with interior lineman Jordan Elliott from the Browns.

It can be argued that, when injuries are factored in, the 49ers upgraded at every spot with those transactions.

But it also created a glut of 18 defensive linemen on the 90-man opening roster, and that was just not sustainable. So this week, ahead of the start of rookie camp, the 49ers made a move by cutting second-year lineman Spencer Waege, an undrafted free agent who spent last season with San Francisco’s practice squad.

Waege did not last long on the waiver wire: Within hours of having let him go, the 49ers NFC rival Green Bay Packers scooped him up, signing him on for their camp. The Packers nearly upset the 49ers in the NFC playoffs semifinal, and figure to be one of the 49ers’ biggest impediments to reaching Super Bowl 59.

Spencer Waege Was Converted From DE

Waege, a college teammate of former 49ers No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance at North Dakota State, signed with the 49ers immediate after the 2023 NFL draft. He was originally seen as a defensive end but, as they did with Armstead, the 49ers converted him to the inside, where he has some talent but might lack heft—he is 6-foot-5 but a relatively slender 295 pounds.

The 49ers did invest in Waege but with a herd of new players coming on board, there simply was not room on the roster for him. He’ll get the chance to thrive in Green Bay.

In a video commentary after Waege was cut, 49ers writer David Lombardi of The Athletic said, “They struggled on the interior in 2022, they did not struggle there in 2023 but I thought they lacked a little edge rushing depth and that’s something they really tried to address. …

“They’re going to be welcoming 15 new players and they’ve got to be under that 90-man roster limit. So Spencer Waege gets waived.”

49ers Defense Has Been Rebuilt Under New Coordinator

As for the 49ers defenders who still remain with the team, they will be getting a new defensive coordinator but a familiar face, as the recently promoted Nick Sorensen will replace ill-fitting Steve Wilks, who was let go in the days after the 49ers’ Super Bowl loss.

The pass rush was very much a topic of conversation when Sorensen met with the media for the first time on Friday. He weighed in on the significant changes in personnel within the unit.

“Pro sports, the NFL, it’s tough,” Sorensen said. “There’s changes all the time, whether it’s coaching or players. … (We’re mixing) some of the guys that we had last year with some guys that were really excited about. I mean, [DL Leonard] Floyd and [DL] Maliek [Collins] inside and then getting [DL] Jordan Elliot as well, [DL] Yetur Gross-Matos, we’ve got some young guys mixed in with some veteran guys that really have performed and we’re really excited about also that we have them for a couple years.”

Sorensen pointed out that the 49ers took risky one-year rental players via trade last year like Young and Gregory, but sought out players they could have for two full seasons this time around.

But the standard 49ers four-man pass rush, though it will get some wrinkles, will mostly remain the same.

“We always are looking to evolve in certain ways,” Sorensen said. “I think there’s things throughout the league that you see and it’s like, will this work? Will it not? But as far as what we do, our bread and butter, we’re going to do that.”

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