Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Earl Mitchell (90) on the field during the first quarter of a game against the Los Angeles Rams played at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/John Cordes)

John Cordes/Associated Press

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2017

The San Francisco 49ers‘ new regime has made its first major move by signing defensive tackle Earl Mitchell to a four-year contract, the team announced on Saturday. 

ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported the news on Friday. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo added it is for $16 million total with $5.5 million due in 2017. 

Mike Klis of 9News reported the Denver Broncos were close to signing Mitchell before the 49ers ultimately made a better offer. 

Mitchell has spent the last three seasons with the Miami Dolphins. He only appeared in nine games last season due to a calf injury but was a minimal contributor with just 17 combined tackles and zero sacks. 

The Dolphins cut Mitchell and Mario Williams on the same day last week to save $12.5 million in salary-cap space, per Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel.

The 49ers will be hoping Mitchell is able to put his recent injury woes and poor performance behind him to bolster a defensive line in desperate need of help. 

Before the start of last season, Eric Eager of Pro Football Focus ranked Mitchell’s contract with the Dolphins as the fifth worst among interior defensive linemen:

Playing alongside Ndamukong Suh in 2015, Mitchell struggled mightily, finishing 97th among interior defensive linemen with a 64.1 overall grade. He was especially weak against the run, finishing 60th among defensive tackles with a 4.2 run-stop percentage (for an overall run-defense grade of 34.2). He didn’t grade positively after Week 8 of 2015, accumulating just three stops and four pressures during that stretch.

The 49ers badly needed to get bigger on the interior of their defensive line, especially with the oft-injured Glenn Dorsey being an unrestricted free agent. They had the NFL’s worst run defense with 165.9 yards allowed per game, 22 more than any other team. 

Mitchell isn’t going to transform the 49ers defense on his own, but he at least gives new head coach Kyle Shanahan depth to play with as he and general manager John Lynch continue to build a roster that fits their vision for the franchise.

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