Insider analysis: Clark Haggans

What kind of player are the 49ers getting in veteran outside linebacker Clark Haggans, who joined the team this week? Brad Wilbricht, publisher of, stops by NinersDigest to give some insight on what the 13th-year veteran did during his four years with the Cardinals and what he brings to the 49ers at this point in his career. Get the inside scoop on Haggans here.

Brad Wilbricht, publisher, Clark Haggans was a solid but not spectacular pass rusher during his tenure with the Cardinals. After spending the first eight years of his NFL career with the Steelers, Haggans was brought to Arizona to be more of a leader rather than true a playmaker.

The Cardinals parted ways with Haggans after deciding to go with O'Brien Schofield at left outside linebacker opposite of Sam Acho on the right side in their 3-4 defensive scheme.

Haggans – who managed only 14 sacks in four years with the Cardinals – is certainly on the downside of career but is a decent addition for the 49ers at this point in the season.

Further complicating matters for Haggans is that he could be facing a suspension from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Haggans was arrested in 2011 for driving under the influence and spent time in a Pennsylvania prison this summer to fulfill his legal obligations from the crime.

On a positive note, there are many similarities between San Francisco defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's defensive scheme and the schemes ran by Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh and Ray Horton in Arizona. Haggans should have an accelerated learning curve due to his previous experience in those systems.

The bottom line is that Haggans is an adequate stopgap this late in the game while Parys Haralson recovers from a season-ending injury, but don't expect too much production.

Craig Massei's take: While the arrival of Haggans isn't exactly a godsend for the 49ers, there is little question that he goes a long way toward filling a significant void in their defensive structure after Haralson, San Francisco's starter at ROLB the past five seasons, was placed on injured reserve this week, ending his season. Even though he had given way to Aldon Smith this year as the regular starter at that position, Haralson remained an invaluable piece of the puzzle for the San Francisco defense and would have seen regular action in sequential intervals during the course of each game in the Niners' scheme. Haralson started 68 games over the past five seasons for the Niners, and that's a lot of experience and knowledge of the system to have to replace on the fly at this point in the year. While he must learn the 49ers' terminology, Haggans has the knowledge of the system the Niners need and are looking for, since he has played in a variation of the 3-4 scheme throughout his career. Haggans comes to the Niners already having a good feel for a complicated system, and the team needs that from Haralson's replacement as much as anything. As coach Jim Harbaugh said this week after Haggans joined the team, "Veteran player we needed at that position and needed him right away. Pretty deep into our playbook already. He started at page 25 when he first got here. I think he'll assimilate very quickly and that's one of the reasons we were so excited to get him." Haggans has started 100 games as an edge linebacker for the Steelers and Cardinals since the 2004 season, including all 16 games last season in Arizona, so he knows what to expect when he's on the field. As Brad Wilbricht says, Haggans is past his prime and in the twilight of a career that saw him as a premier linebacker when he was at the top of his game. But the Niners don't need every-down production from him; they need an inexperienced veteran who can step in in a pinch and allow their formidable defense to hum along smoothly. While he's not the edge pass rusher he was earlier in his career, Haggans does have 46.5 career sacks, so he knows how to get to the quarterback. And he said this week that he still has the skills to do that and perform at a high level at age 35. Considering the situation, this was a good pickup for the 49ers, who released four young edge linebackers at the final roster cutdown last week. Haggans certainly appears to be a better replacement on the roster for Haralson than any of them could have been. The downside of this acquisition is Haggans might not be able to play in the season opener or other September games, and that could force the Niners into some late roster juggling before Sunday's opener at Green Bay. It's not because Haggans won't be able physically or mentally; he had a hearing before the NFL on Wednesday regarding a DUI incident and could be facing a suspension of undetermined length. A ruling won't be made until later this week, so as of now Haggans is available for the opener against the Packers. The 49ers certainly will be able to use him then, as they will later in the season even if Haggan is forced to miss playing time from a suspension.

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