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DeForest Buckner on Javon Hargrave’s contract: ‘Just funny how they literally gave him the same contract’

Let’s play the hindsight game

Indianapolis Colts v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The next lucrative contract the 49ers handed out at defensive tackle was always going to trace back to their decision to trade DeForest Buckner. Unfortunately for San Francisco, we’re discussing the matter a mere three years later.

The 49ers gave former Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle a four-year, $84 million contract that included $40 million guaranteed. Buckner told the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mike Silver, “Great for him!” DeForest added, “just funny how they literally gave him the same contract.”

Almost three years ago to the date, the 49ers traded Buckner to the Colts after failing to work out a contract extension. The Niners used the first-round pick they received to select Javon Kinlaw as Buckner’s replacement.

Buckner was a dominant force in ‘19. It would have been impossible for a rookie to fill his shoes. Kinlaw has failed to stay healthy, so the decision looks even worse in hindsight. But that ignores San Francisco netting a first-rounder.

Sure, Kinlaw didn’t pan out, but the Niners used the money to extend Arik Armstead, Fred Warner, and also had Dee Ford on the books. There’s also this thing called inflation. Fans do this every offseason during free agency. Contracts may look the same, but that’s before accounting for the increase each year in the salary cap.

It’s understandable why Buckner still holds a grudge for not getting the contract he earned from the team that drafted him, but it’s a business and the 49ers went in a different direction.

For as much back and forth as there’s been on this topic, I’d argue the 49ers biggest mistake was waiting until midway through the 2021 season to move Armstead inside at defensive tackle. It took a plethora of injuries for that switch to happen. Now, Armstead is one of the best at his position.

And perhaps that’s hindsight, since we know what Armstead is capable of as an interior player. But since the 49ers extended Armstead, his value was always at its best when he played inside, which dates back to his days at Oregon.