News that the San Francisco 49ers were working on signing defensive end Arik Armstead to a long-term deal was certainly a welcome surprise to the Niner Faithful. The team was applauded when
the five-year deal became official.
Then, mere hours later, fans learned what the signing cost.
No, I’m not talking about the $85 million value of the contract. It cost something much more.
Shortly after the signing, the shocking news broke that the 49ers had traded Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, a long-time fan-favorite, to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for the No. 13 overall pick in next month’s draft.
Immediately, fans started to question whether or not the 49ers made the right choice. Was it worth re-signing Armstead at the cost of losing Buckner?
Albert Breer of The MMQB, in his latest column, explained why the choice may have been the right one for the 49ers. It may have been the only one.
Breer explained that San Francisco already has $18 million per year devoted to pass rusher Dee Ford. The team also had three players last season — Buckner, Armstead (on his fifth-year option), and Nick Bosa — playing on their rookie deals.
The 49ers considered using the franchise tag on Armstead as a precursor to a trade, much as the Kansas City Chiefs did last year with Ford. So why didn’t San Francisco part ways with Armstead or Ford instead of Buckner, you ask? Simple. Buckner had more value, says Breer. It’s unlikely any team would have given up a first-round pick for Armstead or Ford.
“They could get more for Buckner, and bring back Armstead for a little less than it cost to keep him,” wrote Breer. “So looking at it globally, the Niners keep one player from the strength of the team, albeit the one most believe is the lesser piece, and get the 13th pick in the draft.”
With that draft pick, the 49ers will acquire a cost-controlled player, who will have a manageable contract for up to five years, or trade down for more picks to fill the void between rounds one and five.
“Altogether, I’m sure the Niners hated to move on from Buckner,” Breer continued, “For the first three quarters of the Super Bowl, he and Bosa were the best players on the field on either team. But as far as sustaining the roster, this was the best way for San Francisco to pull the levers it had available.”