ESPN’s Field Yates reported that San Francisco 49ers DeForest Buckner had his fifth-year option value adjusted from $14.36 million, which was the value for a defensive end, to $12.37 million, which is a defensive tackle value. Yates points out that distinction could be pertinent in extension talks and would be relevant in the event Buckner is a tag candidate next year absent an extension.
In 2018, Buckner played 851 snap. Of those 851 snaps, 446 of those came at defensive tackle, and 374 came at defensive end. The other 31 snaps came from lining up at other positions, like nose tackle and even linebacker. In 2019, Buckner played 952 snaps. Of those, 697 came at defensive tackle, and only 221 snaps on the edge. With the team’s salary cap tighter this year, it makes sense to save as much money as they can in attempts to bring back as many unrestricted free agents to keep the team intact that made the Super Bowl.
I’m not sure what led the team to give Buckner the defensive end value originally. We talked about what Buckner’s extension numbers would look like:
According to this report from CBS, the 49ers are motivated to sign DeForest Buckner to a long-term deal. That’s not news, as you’re not going to let one of the top interior linemen in football hit the open market. What’s news is that the report said the 49ers are “pushing to try to make an extension a reality.” That reads as the 49ers are trying to get a done sooner than later.
Looking at the other highest-paid defensive tackles in the NFL, Buckner would likely make right around the same under an extension. The three highest-paid defensive tackles—Fletcher Cox, Grady Jarrett, and Geno Atkins—all make between $16.3-$17.1 million. After that, the next two defensive tackles make just over $12 million, and only other player makes double-digit millions annually. As a rising star, Buckner will likely make closer to that $16 million number than $12 million.
With the recent adjustment, that $2 million difference will work in the 49ers’ advantage. Paraag Marathe will certainly work his magic and have Buckner on the books for less than any prediction will have. If the report from above is true, Buckner will be extended sooner than later. I’d be surprised if it got to the point where we’re at this time next year, and the 49ers are discussing a possible franchise tag option with Buckner. This move gives the 49ers a slight bump in cap space. They’re now at about $15 million. If Buckner is signed to a long-term extension, the 49ers reduce his 2020 cap hit even more.