Niners Make Tough Decision

By trading away terrific defensive lineman DeForest Buckner they gain a high first-round pick and draft flexibility

The 49ers lost a terrific player Monday but added flexibility to improve the overall roster.

Just two months after going to the Super Bowl, the 49ers are showing this offseason is going to be full of unexpected twists.

In dealing Pro Bowl defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Colts Monday, San Francisco loses one of its finest players. In four seasons, the former No. 1 pick out of Oregon had established himself as one of the NFL’s premier interior defenders. Over 2018 (a Pro Bowl season) and 2019, Buckner had 19.5 sacks, was in on 129 tackles (including 26 for loss) and often commanded double teams from opponents, which helped edge rushers get to the quarterback, especially this past season.

But Buckner had just one option year left on his rookie contract, and the 49ers made the difficult decision to trade him – while re-signing defensive lineman and potential free agent Arik Armstead to a new deal – in exchange for more draft capital.

The 49ers, who had just the 31st overall pick in the draft, receive the Colts’ first-round pick in this year’s draft, at No. 13.

The trade gives the 49ers a chance to be much more flexible in adding younger and less-expensive talent in the draft at a time when they have a tight salary-cap situation.

As Cody Williams of NFL Spin Zone wrote: “The 49ers are able to recoup a first-round pick for Buckner in the 2020 NFL Draft, where they are without a second- and third-round pick and could use any extra help. Now with the No. 13 pick, they have the ability to grab a top-15 prospect in the class and then trade down from their own No. 31 pick to get more value on Day 2 of the draft.”

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