Last year’s 90-in-90 on Arik Armstead asked if he would perform up to his first-round draft pick status. Armstead would go on to have a career season. He finished in the upper half of total pressures and sacks while finishing top-10 in stops. Armstead was one of the best defensive players in the NFL through the first half of the regular season. His versatility and dominance made the 49ers defense go. You begin to nitpick when you look for areas where Armstead didn’t play well early on.
While his production dropped as the season went on due to playing more snaps as the San Francisco 49ers injuries mounted along the defensive line, Armstead was still valuable for the Niners. The team extended Armstead on a five-year, $85 million contract with only a $6 million cap hit in 2020. Armstead wasn’t rewarded for his play in 2019 alone as he showed steady improvement each year as a player. Once the 49ers surrounded Armstead with the amount of talent that was on the field last year, his production followed.
Age: 26 (birthday is November 15)
Experience: Five accrued seasons
Armstead’s guaranteed salary in 2020 will be $2.5 million. His cap number will be $6 million when you add in the $3.5 million prorated bonus. Armstead’s cap number doubles in 2021 to $12.5 million. Over the Cap only has Armstead’s guaranteed salary for the first two years of his contract.
The 49ers won’t be able to get out of Armstead’s contract without taking a significant loss until 2024 when Armstead is 31. The dead money in each season prior is at least $11.5 million.
Why he might regress in 2020
Statistically, it’s going to be tough for Armstead to improve in 2020. If there is another level that Armstead can get to as a player, then San Francisco got a steal of a deal. Armstead said himself during Super Bowl media week he doesn’t have a go-to pass rush move. Without one, that alone could be a reason he regresses in 2020.
Armstead is a sound football player that I could see having a statistical year in the ballpark of 2019 as he “plays the game the right way.” Armstead plays hard and through the whistle, is so strong, and is playing on one of the most talented defenses in the NFL. Armstead’s production might suffer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll become a worse player.
What to expect in 2020
I’m expecting Armstead to take a slight step back, which still makes him a very effective player and one of the most important players on the roster. I’m expecting Dee Ford and Armstead to switch roles from a production standpoint. If Armstead can develop a go-to pass rush move, he’ll be difficult to block. Armstead set a high bar for himself in 2019. If he can continue to build on the subtleties as a pass rusher, we have yet to see the best of Arik, who is just entering his prime.