It was well known that the San Francisco 49ers were going to have make some tough decisions with their defensive line. With mega-extensions for Nick Bosa and George Kittle on the horizon, general manager John Lynch was forced to decide if he wanted to pay DeForest Buckner or Arik Armstead.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports detailed how the deal came together. He reports that Buckner’s agent, Joel Segal, met with the Niners’ brass in Indianapolis during the NFL Scouting Combine. He reportedly told Lynch and co. that DeFo wasn’t going to accept anything less than $20 million a season.
La Canfora adds that four-to-six teams were in on Buckner, but Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard’s diligence got the deal done. As La Canfora points out, the trade paid huge dividends.
“The Colts rushing defense is 20 yards per game better this season, with Buckner’s presence a primary reason why, and they are also able to get quarterback pressure despite rarely blitzing in large part due to the arrival of Buckner. He is in the top five of all interior defensive linemen in QB pressures per QB drop back and the Colts rank in the top five in many key defensive metrics at the midpoint of the season.”
As we all know, San Francisco gave Armstead a five-year deal worth $85 million. Buckner’s cap hit will be less than Armstead’s for the last three years of their respective contract, although DeFo will make more in actual salary in 2023 and 2024, per Spotrac.
Without Bosa and Dee Ford, the 49ers’ pass-rush has struggled getting sacks, and some of that falls on Armstead. Buckner drew a lot of attention from opposing offenses last season, which gave Armstead the ability to get after the quarterback more freely.
San Francisco’s defense ranks third in QB hurry percentage and ninth in pressure percentage. But, the 49ers have just 15 total sacks through nine games, which is 20th in the NFL.
Pro Football Focus gives Buckner a grade of 82.3 on the season, while Armstead is at 75.6. Armstead’s stats have suffered without his former University of Oregon teammate. The 26-year-old has just 1.5 sacks, 22 tackles and 2 tackles for loss through nine games this season.
Armstead had 7 sacks, 31 tackles and 8 tackles for losses at the same point in 2019. There is no doubt the absence of Bosa and Ford has hurt his totals, but with how Buckner is playing for the Colts, it’s obvious how much the Niners are missing him.
San Francisco did get a first-round pick out of the trade and used it on defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw. The rookie has shown some promise, but it will take a lot of work for him to eventually have the same kind of impact that Buckner did on the defense.