The 49ers signed outside linebacker Tank Carradine to a one-year contract extension, the team announced Tuesday.
Carradine had been scheduled for free agency in March. The extension, which includes a $1.25 million signing bonus, keeps him with the 49ers through the 2017 season.
Carradine, 27, is in his fourth year with the 49ers but his first at outside linebacker, the position he expected to play when he came out of Florida State in 2013. The 49ers used a high second-round pick on him but thought he’d be best as a defensive lineman. He bulked up to 305 pounds to adjust to the change in position.
Last year, however, Carradine dropped weight as the 49ers began to reassess his role. He spent the offseason as an outside linebacker and will be part of a rotation starting the season that includes Ahmad Brooks and Eli Harold. Aaron Lynch, a would-be starter at that spot, will miss the first four games while serving a league suspension.
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“Tank is a hard-working, dedicated player who is making excellent progress in his transition from DE to OLB,” general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. “We look forward to his continued development and contributions to our organization.”
Carradine recently said he was at 275 pounds, close to his weight when he entered the 2013 draft. He tore an ACL at Florida State in 2012 and spent most of his rookie year recovering.
“I feel more healthy,” Carradine said last month. “I don’t feel out of place, out of shape, out of every play. When I was 300, 305, after every play I was just tired. I didn’t feel like me.”
Carradine’s steepest adjustment has been dropping into pass coverage, something he said he still was getting used to. But he’s perhaps the team’s most powerful edge rusher, and his time as a defensive lineman gave him experience handling double teams and stopping the run.
“He can set the edge,” defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said. “He’s heavy-handed. I would not want to block him if I was a tight end. He continues to show up as far as pass rush, and he’s gotten better every rep that he’s gotten as far as pass coverage. So he’s done a nice job progressing at the position.”
The 49ers didn’t play linebacker Ahmad Brooks, a 10-year veteran, in their third preseason game to get a longer look at Carradine and others.
“He’s a physical force when it comes to rushing the quarterback,” coach Chip Kelly said afterward. “ ... We’ve been really pleased with that transition. He played some defensive end before and was an interior pass rusher, but having him on his feet and playing outside linebacker, I think he’s taken to it.”
Carradine finished the preseason with 10 tackles and two sacks. The scouting service Pro Football Focus rated him as the NFL’s second-most productive pass rusher this preseason.