Packers make former 49ers DL Quinton Dial latest free-agent pickup

Tom Silverstein
Packers News
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San Francisco 49ers defensive end Quinton Dial (92) tackles Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

GREEN BAY – Seeking to replace the valuable snaps departed veteran nose tackle Letroy Guion took last year, the Green Bay Packers again turned to the free-agent market and signed former San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Quinton Dial.

The 6-5, 318-pound Dial signed Tuesday after visiting with coaches and personnel people at Lambeau Field and is expected to be ready for practice Wednesday when the Packers continue their preparation for the regular-season opener Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

Dial is the seventh veteran free agent general manager Ted Thompson has signed from another team this year. He joins outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, tight ends Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks, cornerback Davon House, guard Jahri Evans and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois.

Dial, a 2013 fifth-round draft choice out of Alabama, got caught up in a defensive line makeover in San Francisco under new general manager John Lynch. The 49ers switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 and used the draft and free agency to rebuild their front.

Dial is the second released 49ers defensive veteran to join the Packers since the cutdown to 53 Saturday, joining Brooks, who was signed on Sunday and practiced with the team Monday.

The Packers cut defensive tackle Christian Ringo to make room for Dial, swapping a player with better pass-rush ability for one with better run-stopping ability. Since cutting the troubled Guion on Aug. 8, the Packers never really found someone capable of backing up starter Kenny Clark at nose tackle.

Last year, Guion played 448 regular-season plays, which accounted for 43.5 percent of the defensive snaps. Clark played 333 or 32 percent. This year, Clark is expected to play at least the number of snaps Guion did at nose tackle and maybe a few as a third-down inside rusher if he shows pass-rush improvement.

Dial mostly played end in the 49ers’ 3-4 defense, but he did play some nose tackle and the Packers think he has the ability to play nose or three-technique in their nickel defense. He was filling in at the nose position with the 49ers this summer before being released.

Before adding Dial, the Packers were planning on using a combination of Jean Francois, Mike Daniels and Dean Lowry to back up Clark, but Dial gives them a better option.  The Packers’ run defense would have been in big trouble if Clark had gotten hurt, given none of the other three are versed in playing over the center.

The Packers had the option of filling the backup nose tackle position with Brian Price, but when Dial was released they saw a better, more experienced option. The Packers kept Ringo over Price in the cut to 53, but probably will now try to get Ringo onto the practice squad.

Price was claimed on waivers by the Dallas Cowboys.

Dial has started 26 games over the past two seasons and totaled 116 tackles, 2 ½ sacks and three pass break-ups during that span. He also blocked two field goals, both during the ’15 season.

The Packers are going to face some formidable running attacks this season and will count heavily on the 6-3, 313-pound Jean Francois and Dial to add some bulk inside. It all starts Sunday with the Seahawks, whose three-headed rushing attack includes former Packers power back Eddie Lacy.

If defensive coordinator Dom Capers plans on playing his “nitro” defense – where safety Morgan Burnett replaces one of the inside linebackers – he’s going to need defensive linemen to keep blockers off Burnett.

The Packers felt better about letting Ringo go when rookie defensive tackle Montravius Adams made it through practice Monday. It was the first time he had taken to the field since suffering a broken foot that required surgery the first week of camp.

It will take Adams several weeks to get back to where he was when training camp began, but the coaches were extremely high on his pass-rush ability and are expecting him to be able to work inside on passing downs. Adams was less likely to be able to help fill the void at nose tackle, which made the acquisition of Dial so attractive.

Dial became expendable when San Francisco signed former Miami defensive tackle Earl Mitchell to a four-year, $16 million contract and drafted defensive tackle D.J. Jones in the sixth round.

Dial was penciled in behind starters DeForest Buckner and Mitchell on the inside and would not have been in the top four on the depth chart at defensive end. Dial had signed a three-year, $12.7 million extension in 2016 under the previous regime and was scheduled to make $2 million this year, $1.4 million of it guaranteed.

Terms of his deal with the Packers were not known.

Ryan Wood of USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin contributed to this story

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