Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
At this year’s State of The Franchise event, the 49ers announced that Joe Staley had been signed to a two-year contract extension through 2021, all but guaranteeing that the 6-time Pro-Bowler finishes his career with the 49ers. The news of Staley’s extension was well received by his teammates and even got some of them to ponder their future with the club. When asked if he thought about his future with the team DeForest Buckner said “most definitely,” and adding, “you know me. I love this organization. I’m very happy this organization chose me back in 2016. There’s no other organization I’d rather be at and play for.” Buckner will soon have the chance to put lots of money where his mouth is because he is eligible for a contract extension and getting him signed to one should be a high priority on the 49ers to-do list.
Of the 90 players currently on the 49ers’ roster, only ten players remain from the end of the Chip Kelly era (eleven if you count Dontae Johnson, who was re-signed on May 28). Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have not been shy about their desire to change the culture of the team and reward the players they feel set the right tone for how players should conduct themselves both on the field and in the locker room. The 49ers were quick to extend Marquise Goodwin after he had a career year in 2017, despite the fact that Goodwin was not a pending free agent; they added money to Staley’s contract in 2018, and also worked quickly to re-sign Jimmy Garoppolo after the quarterback showed his value on the field and quickly became a team leader. DeForest Buckner should be next on that list.
Signing Buckner to a contract extension will help create cost certainty for the 49ers going forward, which will help the club’s effort to retain its crop of homegrown talent and not have to fill as many roster spots through free agency, which generally requires that a team overpay.
Signing Buckner sooner rather than later will also save the team money in the long run. When the Niners signed Jimmy Garoppolo to what at the time was a record-setting contract, opinions within the NFL world were mixed, but with each crop of new quarterback contracts, the Garoppolo deal looks more and more like a bargain. Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald established a new benchmark for the position when he signed an extension in 2018, and the contracts are only going to get more expensive. In 2020, both Grady Jarrett and Jadeveon Clowney are set to be free agents and will be looking for massive contracts, and the 2021 group will include Myles Garrett and Joey Bosa.
Buckner is represented by Joel Segal, the same agent who represents Khalil Mack. Mack, who was selected with the fifth pick in the 2014 draft, held out of Oakland Raiders camp prior to the 2018 season while looking for a new contract. Rather than pay Mack the Raiders traded him to Chicago. The trade cast a pall over the Raiders’ 2018 season.
So far little movement has been made on an extension for Buckner and both he and his agent know that the longer they wait the bigger the dollars they are likely to see. Something that could potentially move Buckner and his reps to the negotiating table is the potential for a lockout following the 2020 season. The NFL collective bargaining agreement expires after 2020 and the prospect of a lockout might have players looking to procure new contracts and the upfront money that comes with them beforehand.
DeForest Buckner has been the team’s best defensive player since being selected with the seventh overall pick in 2016 and he has been extremely durable over that time, playing in 47 of 48 possible games, which practically makes him Cal Ripken Jr. compared to the rest of the 49ers’ roster. Buckner is also coming off his most productive season to date. With little to no help from the defensive ends on the roster, Buckner was able to record 13 sacks last season. This offseason the 49ers added Pro Bowl defensive end Dee Ford via trade (and subsequently signed him to a big extension) and also took defensive end Nick Bosa with the second pick in the draft; all of this should make Buckner’s job easier. If Buckner posts a second straight double-digit sack season his price tag is only going to go that much higher.
The 49ers are building momentum towards becoming a winning franchise once again and despite the losses suffered in recent years the team’s morale is, by all accounts, very high, and San Francisco is again becoming a place that players want to play. If the 49ers want to keep that momentum going, keeping a franchise cornerstone like Deforest Buckner is a must, even if it means overpaying in the short term.
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