The 49ers aren’t ready to give up on defensive lineman Arik Armstead.
The team’s top draft pick of 2015 was coming up on the final year of his rookie contract. But indications were that the team’s braintrust was contemplating not picking up his fifth-year option for 2019 because Armstead hasn’t quite reached the level of play that had been projected, in large part because of a series of injuries. Over the past two seasons, Armstead has played just six games (2017) and eight games (2016).
But on Monday, the 49ers announced they’ve picked up that option, which is reported to be for a little more than $9 million.
Armstead goes into 2018 scheduled to be the team’s starter at left defensive end. Over 30 games with the 49ers he has 56 tackles and six sacks. Last year, his season was over in October because of a hand injury.
Matt Barrows, who covers the 49ers for the Sacramento Bee, wrote that the 49ers are still high on Armstead’s potential and believed he was starting to play at a much higher level last season when he was injured. Barrows said head coach Kyle Shanahan recently said he believes Armstead and Cassius Marsh – a strong pass rusher who also will play on the left end – will give the 49ers a strong duo at the position and are the reason the team didn’t feel the need to use a high draft pick on a pass-rush specialist.
“You’ve got to be pretty good to beat out Marsh,” said Shanahan, according to Barrows. “You’ve got to be pretty good to beat out Armstead. You don’t just get guys. If you get them, someone else has to get cut and we’ve got a pretty good group.”
By taking action to keep Armstead on the roster through 2019, the 49ers are banking on the defensive lineman having a good season in 2018. If he is injury-free this season and performs well, he would have been able to sign with another team in free agency if the team hadn't picked up the fifth year option on his rookie contract.