49ers’ newest defensive linemen will hope to continue franchise’s fascinating streak

When speaking to the media for the first time following his trade from the Houston Texans to the San Francisco 49ers, defensive tackle Maliek Collins had effusive praise for his new position coach, Kris Kocurek.

San Francisco 49ers' newest defensive linemen will hope to continue franchise's fascinating streak

“I’ve actually been waiting to be coached by him my whole career,” Collins said. “I met with him a lot during the combine process back when I came out, and it’s come full circle.”

While Collins elaborated that Kocurek’s passion for the game is one of the main reasons why he is so excited to work with the 49ers’ defensive line coach, for him and San Francisco’s three other acquisitions on the front this offseason, there’s another reason to relish the linkup.

Kocurek has developed a reputation for getting the most out of his players, turning around the careers of many who had been struggling for production prior to landing with the 49ers.

That is not the case for Collins, nor for the 49ers’ marquee free agent signing, Leonard Floyd, who has 39.5 sacks in his last four seasons. Defensive tackle Jordan Elliott and edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos arrived in free agency with more to prove than Collins and Floyd, but all four potentially have the chance to continue a remarkable streak for San Francisco.

Per Arjun Menon, the 49ers have had at least one defensive lineman leave on the open market following a spell with the team and increase their salary by average annual value in each of the last four years. The list is eight players strong with defensive end Clelin Ferrell adding his name to it this offseason when he joined the Washington Commanders.

Floyd, Gross-Matos and Elliott all arrived on two-year deals while Collins is a free agent in 2026, so they will have to wait a little to get that bump from playing under Kocurek on what is consistently one of the best defensive lines in the league.

Entering his age-32 season, Floyd may also be a little too old to earn an increase in salary when he hits the open market again in 2026. Still, the Kocurek bump is something defensive linemen around the league must be aware of at this point.

All players compete for the same goal every year, to win the Lombardi Trophy, but they also want to put themselves in the best position to maximize their earnings.

It’s become obvious that, for defensive linemen, one of the easiest ways to achieve the latter goal is to play for Kocurek. As long as he remains the position coach, the 49ers shouldn’t have any issues attracting defensive linemen on the open market.

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