Since Cassius Marsh was released by the New England Patriots Tuesday he was immediately considered a possibility to rejoin the Seattle Seahawks—who traded Marsh to New England for draft picks in September—after they cut defensive end Dwight Freeney the same day. Instead, the San Francisco 49ers picked Marsh off the waiver wire, meaning the Seahawks never had a chance to reclaim Marsh since the waiver priority is decided by reverse record, and San Francisco is 1-9. Rookie receiver David Moore joined Seattle’s 53-man roster from the practice squad instead, which sounds like was the cause for the Seahawks waiving Freeney in the first place.
But because the 49ers host Seattle Sunday in San Francisco, Marsh gets to reunite with his old teammates anyway, after a fashion.
Marsh is expected to line up at the LEO spot for his new team, and the 49ers’ desire to add Marsh at this moment may be a sign that rookie defensive end Solomon Thomas is not yet ready to return from a minor MCL sprain that has kept Thomas out since Halloween. Marsh will presumably rotate with Aaron Lynch, who is also coming back from a pulled calf that sidelined Lynch four games, and Elvis Dumervil.
Reportedly, San Francisco may also see the return of Tank Carradine, who spent eight weeks on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain, meaning with Marsh added to the mix with the return of Lynch and possibly Thomas the 49ers are suddenly much deeper at the edges, where the Seahawks have been vulnerable in pass protection all year (and for the last two years, for what that’s worth).
Thomas, the third overall draft pick in 2017, has been easily San Francisco’s best defensive end already as a rookie, leading the club with 10 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in just eight games so far. Just two of those stops are sacks—but that’s still second on the team behind 33-year old Dumervil, who plays a more limited role specializing in obvious passing downs. So Thomas’s presence could be a key if his knee is right.
If not, the 49ers are also without their next most productive end Arik Armstead, but DeForest Buckner also brings disruptive penetration from the middle. Lynch only has one sack and other tackle for loss in five healthy games.
Marsh made slight impact with the Patriots, recording pass pressures in bursts in a handful of games early in the season—including a 25 percent pressure rate on 16 snaps in week 3—but declined in recent weeks and perpetrated some conspicuous screw-ups on running downs, including failing to hold the edge on this 25-yard rush by former teammate Marshawn Lynch a week ago.
Marsh had one sack and two tackles for loss with New England while playing 40 percent of defensive snaps (he also contributed on 149 special teams snaps), bringing his career totals to four sacks and 57 combined tackles in four years. That makes him a comparable lifetime player (though drafted two rounds lower and a year later) to Carradine, who has five sacks and 65 tackles in his injury-plagued career. Marsh is now on his third team before his rookie deal completed, while Carradine signed a year extension following the end of his first contract. Both are scheduled to be free agents in 2018.