49ers trade for Maliek Collins from Texans, according to sources: Why San Francisco made the move, where DT fits into the lineup

Written by: Diana Rossini, Matt Barrows, and David Lombardi

The San Francisco 49ers are resurfacing their interior defensive front, trading for Houston Texans defensive end Malik Collins, according to league sources. The Texans will receive a 2024 seventh-round pick in exchange for Collins. The seventh round is the 232nd pick, who came to the 49ers from the Denver Broncos as part of last season's Randy Gregory trade.

This news comes after defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw agreed to terms with the New York Jets. It also points to the 49ers waiving veteran Arik Armstead.

Collins, who turns 29 in April, has been a consistent starter for the Texans over the past few seasons. He had five sacks in 16 games last season in Houston. He began his career as a 2016 third-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys and spent four seasons there. Collins played for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020 before playing for the Texans the past three seasons.

The eight-year veteran has compiled 25 sacks, 206 total tackles and six fumble recoveries in his career.

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Why trading for Collins makes sense for the 49ers

With Armstead potentially heading out of town, the 49ers needed to add a starter at defensive tackle. They found that in Collins, a guy who has started 46 games for the Texans the past three seasons and has 11 sacks over that span. Is he as good as Armstead, the 49ers' longest-tenured player and the leader of their defensive line? Probably not. For example, Armstead took pressure from 58 quarterbacks in 15 games last season — 16 of them while playing on a torn knee meniscus in the playoffs. Collins has had 46 pressures in 18 games. However, Collins is a bit younger (28 versus Armstead's 30), likely a bit cheaper and should start in San Francisco after playing in a similar system last year for the Texans. — Matt Barrows, Senior Writer at 49 years old

Where Collins fits is on the 49ers' D line

With Collins, the 49ers' starting defensive line would likely look like this: Nick Bosa and Leonard Floyd at defensive end and Collins and Javon Hargrave at defensive tackle. It's a lineup that should bring more explosive firepower than the 2023 version, largely due to Floyd's arrival. The 49ers have struggled to find a consistent defensive lineman for Bosa since 2019. Last year, for example, the 49ers' defensive end with the second-most sacks was Clelin Ferrell, who finished with 3 1/2. Meanwhile, Floyd has had at least nine sacks in each of the past four seasons.

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The 49ers like to keep 10 defensive linemen on the 53-man roster and dress eight on game days. The second-string unit is shaping up to be Yetur Gross-Matos and either Drake Jackson or Robert Bell Jr. on the defensive side with newcomers Jordan Elliott and Kalia Davis at defensive tackle. Gross-Matos can also rush inside on clear passes. — wheelbarrows

How Collins' move affects the 49ers' cap

Assuming this is a clean contract transfer to San Francisco, the 49ers would receive $8 million in Collins' base salary, of which $6 million would be fully guaranteed. He can also earn up to $500,000 in bonus money per game. Since Collins played in 16 of a possible 17 games last season, that would add up to the 2024 salary cap hit of $8.47 million on the 49ers' books. Collins is under contract until 2025.

That $8.47 million figure is important because it could land in the pay cut ballpark that the 49ers wanted defensive tackle Armstead to take from his current $17.4 million salary. The 49ers wanted to become more cost-effective at the defensive tackle position, and this move certainly accomplishes that — even if Collins isn't quite as productive as Armstead was in his healthy prime.

The 49ers also added former Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Jordan Elliott this week. Collins appears poised to take over Armstead's former starting role and Elliott is poised to take over Javon Kinlaw's rotation job. Kinlaw signed with the New York Jets. — David Lombardi, 49ers staff writer

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(Photo: Cooper Neal/Getty Images)

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