In just a span of a couple of hours, 49er fans went from relieved, to shocked, and after it wore off, understanding, but still mixed in with a bit of anger.
First, the 49ers re-signed Arik Armstead to a monster 5-year deal worth up to $85 million. It was a move that signaled to the rest of the league, that the Fearsome Foursome of the 49ers front line was here to stay a while.
But then, shortly after, San Francisco pulled this shocker:
On the same day Armstead gets a monster deal, the 49ers traded away team MVP and locker room leader DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for a 1st round pick- 13th overall.
The move sent shock waves throughout the Niner Empire as fans couldn’t believe what had just transpired. Many were even arguing, myself included for a while, that given a choice between the two, we would have stuck with Buckner over Armstead. Buckner has been a beast since he entered the league four seasons ago, while Armstead 5th year option picked up for 2019, then proceeded to be the second best defensive lineman on the 49ers team this past season.
Still, after all the dust settled, the question had to be asked- what was San Francisco thinking?
It’s simple- money.
Maybe in another time when the NFL wasn’t as money hungry as it is today, the 49ers might have kept the Duck Brothers together for years, but instead, with money being thrown around in free agency, and top players looking to cash in, it’s awfully difficult to keep a Super Bowl team together.
The 49ers saw the big picture, and decided to cash in right now while they could, and swung a deal to get cap space, and a top 15 pick in April. Immediately after the trade was made, Buckner agreed to a deal that pays him $21 million a season, making him the second highest paid defensive player in football. The deal only solidified what the 49ers would not be able to do, keep their entire front four around for a while, it’s that simple.
So the 49ers did what they had to. Buckner, not Armstead, brought them a mid-1st round pick and in the end, actually saved the 49ers roughly $10-15 million in extra cap room this season, giving San Francisco flexibility to re-sign some key free agents like Jimmie Ward and Emmanuel Sanders, and extend George Kittle.
I hate the trade because DFo was one of my favorite 49ers, but I also understand it. The NFL is a business, and this was a straight up business deal. The 49ers saw the writing on the wall, and made a trade while they could. They struck while the iron was hot, something New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is no stranger to doing. That’s what the 49ers did, even if we don’t like or agree with the deal, at least we understand it.