A year ago, it didn’t seem likely the 49ers would re-sign Arik Armstead.
The defensive end, entering the fifth year of his rookie contract, had been good but not great in his first four seasons. And, as a No. 1 draft pick, Armstead hadn’t produced like a first-rounder, with just nine total sacks over those four seasons, including a high of three in 2018.
The Niners retained Armstead for 2019 by picking up his fifth-year option, but a new long-term deal was very much in doubt at this time in 2019.
In fact, some analysts – including Kevin Jones of Blue Wave, a 49ers podcast – found that even picking up Armstead’s fifth-year option was “a pretty puzzling move.” And Kyle Newport of Bleacher Report wrote last spring that investing in Armstead long-term was a risk because Armstead’s injury problems had kept him off the field for large swaths of time. Over 2016 and 2017, Armstead played just 14 games and missed 18.
But then came 2019.
This past season, Armstead was a standout on a defensive line full of standouts (especially Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner and Dee Ford). Armstead played all 16 regular-season games and had 10 sacks, 54 tackles (including 11 for loss), 18 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Over three postseason games he had two sacks, eight tackles and a forced fumble.
Now, it appears the 49ers want to keep Armstead around a lot longer. Eric Ting of the San Francisco Chronicle reports the Niners are in contract negotiations with Armstead on a long-term deal, and Josina Anderson of ESPN reports the team wants Armstead back and is “working on getting a deal done.”
If the 49ers can’t work out a long-term contract, 49ers general manager John Lynch said the team could put the franchise tag on Armstead to keep him another season.
As Ting notes, the period for veteran free agency begins March 18. If Armstead hits the open market, he could be one of the most sought-after players in the league.