Arik Armstead

49ers Rumors: Armstead, Running Backs, Thomas

In his 49ers mailbag, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports addressed Arik Armstead‘s impending free agency. The seventeenth overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft struggled early in his career with injuries and consistency but emerged as an integral part of San Francisco’s defensive line over the past two seasons. Armstead has the versatility to play the edge of defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s 4-3 defense on early downs and then move inside on passing situations.

Armstead has started each of the 49ers last 35 games (playoffs included) and set career-marks this season in sacks (10.0), tackles for loss (11), quarterback hits (18), and tackles (54) as a part of the vaunted Niners defensive front. Now, set for unrestricted free agency, Maiocco downplays the chances San Francisco franchise tags the defensive lineman to trade him. He believes if the team has the cap space to apply the tag, they’ll work out an extension.

Here’s some more rumors out of Santa Clara:

  • Matt Barrows and David Lombardi of The Athletic continued their “State of the 49ers” series, this time looking at the team’s running backs. While no halfback amassed 1,000 yards on the season, the team’s depth at the position was obvious to anyone following the team. Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, and Raheem Mostert all played like the team’s number one back at different points in the season. They place a primary focus on the future of Jerrick McKinnon-who missed the past two seasons with injuries-with the team. If he returns on a team-friendly contract, San Francisco may be comfortable letting Tevin Coleman pursue opportunities elsewhere.
  • Following their Super Bowl defeat, the 49ers now face a series of difficult salary-cap decisions. Patrick Holloway of Niners Nation speculates the team could attach a draft pick to defensive lineman Solomon Thomas to save more than $4MM in cap space. Since Thomas was selected with the third overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, his entire contract is guaranteed and the Niners cannot gain any cap relief from releasing him. However, if he were traded, his dead cap hit would be cut in half, saving the team half of his nearly $9MM cap hit.

49ers Want To Extend Arik Armstead

The 49ers employed five first-round defensive linemen this past season and were able to do so because four of those were on rookie contracts. Arik Armstead‘s has expired, leading to uncertainty for San Francisco’s sack leader.

Armstead is open to the franchise tag, but the 49ers are hoping they can either bypass that arrangement or use it as a bridge to ensure he will be a part of their defensive line well into the 2020s.

Arik is an excellent player,” 49ers GM John Lynch said, via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco. “He had an excellent year. I think everything is on the table. We want to find a way to keep him and make him a part of the 49ers for a long time.”

This would be a promising development for the 49ers, but it won’t be easy. Even with releases of Jerick McKinnon and Marquise Goodwin saving them north of $8MM, the 49ers would still barely hold $20MM in cap space. They also have Jimmie Ward and Emmanuel Sanders as free agents at positions of greater need. San Francisco’s extension pecking order is also clear, with George Kittle and DeForest Buckner slotted ahead of Armstead in that figurative queue.

Armstead led the 49ers with 10 sacks in 2019 and accumulated two more in the playoffs. The versatile pass rusher only registered nine in four prior injury- and inconsistency-marred seasons, however. But another team will likely be willing to offer Armstead more than the 49ers will, should he reach free agency. A tag-and-negotiate scenario may be the team’s only chance to retain the 6-foot-7 talent, and said tag is expected to cost nearly $18MM.

This will not be an easy process for the NFC champions, but they are not resigned to losing the contract-year wonder just yet.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers’ Arik Armstead Open To Tag

Players often bristle at the notion of the franchise tag, but defensive lineman Arik Armstead isn’t necessarily opposed to it. The former-first round pick says he’s intent on staying with the 49ers and his comments suggest that he wouldn’t hold out if he’s tagged.

I would love being here,” Armstead said (Twitter link via Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com) “Trying to go back to the Super Bowl, so however that is seen or has to get done, it’s not really my decision what they want to do with me.”

Armstead didn’t really produce early on in his career and injuries robbed him of 18 games between 2016 and 2017. In his first four seasons, Armstead tallied just nine sacks in total, but everything clicked for him in 2019. The Oregon product notched ten sacks in his walk year and bottled up opposing running backs with equal glee. The Niners’ attack featuring Armstead, Nick Bosa, and Dee Ford was the most ferocious in the NFL, and San Francisco would do well to keep the core in tact.

Still, the Niners will have to keep their budget in mind. Armstead played more snaps at defensive end than defensive tackle in 2019, meaning that his franchise tag will cost around $19.3MM, instead of $15.5MM. A long-term deal could make sense for both sides, but the Niners have to leave enough room to extend key players like DeForest Buckner and George Kittle.

Speaking of Kittle – it’s expected that he’ll land at least $13MM/year on a new contract. That would make him the highest-paid tight end in the league by a healthy margin and slot him far ahead of Super Bowl foe Travis Kelce.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On 49ers DL Arik Armstead

Recent reports have indicated that the 49ers are unlikely to use the franchise tag on defensive lineman Arik Armstead this offseason, which could mean that Armstead will be playing for a different team in 2020. However, Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com says the Niners will make an effort to keep their former first-round pick in the fold.

Armstead, playing on the fifth-year option year of his rookie contract, has absolutely exploded in 2019. After posting modest sacks totals in each of his first four seasons — and after missing 18 games between the 2016-17 campaigns — Armstead has 10 sacks this year, and he has been equally adept at defending the run. While San Francisco’s offseason additions of Nick Bosa and Dee Ford certainly help divert the attention of opposing offenses, Armstead has absorbed plenty of double-teams of his own, and he is productive both on the interior of the line and on the edge.

Although the relatively quiet start to his career could dampen his earning potential to some degree, Armstead will certainly land a considerable raise from the $9MM he is taking home this year. The franchise tag would cost about $18MM, which is not feasible for a 49ers club that has a lot of major business to conduct this offseason, and if he does hit the open market, he could land a contract paying him at least $15MM per season.

As such, he may need to take a hometown discount if he wants to remain with the 49ers. After all, San Francisco is expected to prioritize extensions for DeForest Buckner and George Kittle over a new deal for Armstead, and the team is projected to be near the bottom of the league in terms of cap space.

But Armstead would be perfectly content to remain in the Bay Area. “I can’t even imagine myself playing anywhere else really,” Armstead said. “I’m a Northern California guy through and through, and to be a part of kind of the down times here and be a part of going through the adversity and then being part of this season, I wouldn’t change that for anything.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Notes: Jacobs, Jordan, 49ers

The Raiders are not completely eliminated from playoff contention just yet, but it may be in the team’s best interests to shut down rookie RB Josh Jacobs for the final two games of the year. Jacobs, who has rushed for 1,150 yards on 4.8 yards-per-carry this year, has been battling a shoulder injury, and head coach Jon Gruden said that Jacobs had trouble getting his shoulder pads off yesterday (Twitter link via Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group).

Per Gruden, Jacobs’ status for Oakland’s last two games is in doubt. The Raiders finish up their final season in the Bay Area with divisional contests against the Chargers and Broncos.

Let’s round up a few more West-related items, starting with another note from the Silver-and-Black:

  • Dion Jordan, who signed with the Raiders in November after serving a 10-game suspension for a PED violation, has performed well in his first five games with his new team. Playing in a rotational role, the No. 3 overall pick of the 2013 draft has posted two sacks and has earned positive reviews from Gruden. Jordan will be a free agent at season’s end, and Gruden said the 29-year-old is playing his way into a new contract with the Raiders (Twitter link via McDonald).
  • No surprise here, but Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area does not believe the 49ers will use the franchise tag on Arik Armstead, which means that Armstead may be plying his trade elsewhere in 2020. Maiocco also believes that the team will cut running back Jerick McKinnon and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin during the offseason.
  • Seahawks DB Quandre Diggs has been a boon to Seattle’s defense after being acquired in an October trade with the Lions, but Diggs sprained his ankle in the team’s win over the Panthers on Sunday and will likely miss next week’s matchup against the Cardinals, as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. It’s still too early to predict his status for Week 17, but given the potential magnitude of that bout with San Francisco, the Seahawks will want to make sure Diggs is as healthy as possible.

West Notes: Cards, Mahomes, Jacobs, 49ers

David Johnson‘s usage this season has irked numerous fantasy owners, along with Johnson himself. The fifth-year running back has stayed off the Cardinals‘ injury report for weeks but has taken a backseat to trade acquisition Kenyan Drake. This pattern (and explanation for it) has not sat well with Johnson, per Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The $13MM-AAV back declined to address his future with the team but was not satisfied with the reason Arizona’s coaching staff gave him for his significant workload reduction (Twitter links).

Ankle and back maladies sidelined Johnson earlier in the year, but he’s been active for four straight games, seeing 12 total carries in that span. Although Johnson’s 366 receiving yards still have him on pace to eclipse his 2018 total, he is averaging less than four yards per carry for a second straight season. The three-year, $39MM deal Johnson signed in 2018 runs through 2021. The soon-to-be 28-year-old back’s $10.2MM 2020 base salary is fully guaranteed.

Let’s take a look at the latest from several other teams in the West divisions, starting with the status of the Chiefs’ most important player.

  • The bruised throwing hand Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes suffered did not turn out to be a significant issue. Mahomes, who said Sunday night his hand “didn’t feel great,” returned to full practice Wednesday. The reigning MVP said (via ESPN.com’s Adam Teicher) Wednesday was the first day he could grip the football, but he’s expected to suit up against the Broncos. Mahomes has battled a sprained ankle and a dislocated kneecap but has missed just two games.
  • An MRI Josh Jacobs underwent produced good news for the Raiders running back. The offensive rookie of the year candidate is expected to play against the Jaguars on Sunday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Jon Gruden, however, did not commit to the first-round pick playing in Week 15. Jacobs missed Week 14 with a shoulder malady he’s been battling, giving way to free agent-to-be DeAndre Washington.
  • Extensions for cornerstone 49ers DeForest Buckner and George Kittle will take precedence over retaining contract-year breakout defender Arik Armstead, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. Armstead has been dominant in his fifth season, leading the 49ers with 10 sacks, but was inconsistent in his prior four seasons. With Armstead playing more at defensive end than D-tackle, it would cost them nearly $18MM to use the franchise tag. The 49ers tabled Buckner extension talks until 2020 and can begin negotiating with Kittle in January. The team is projected to hold $24MM in cap space — 25th-most in the league.
  • In addition to the ACL tear Rashaad Penny suffered in Week 14, Pete Carroll noted the second-year running back may have sustained more damage in his injured knee, per Brady Henderson of ESPN.com. The Seahawks running back’s upcoming surgery will provide more clarity on his timetable.

NFC West Notes: Rams, 49ers, Johnson

Todd Gurley has made it through five games without a knee-related absence this season, which could be considered a victory based on the suspicion surrounding the Rams running back this offseason. But the two-time first-team All-Pro has encountered a quadriceps issue and is “up in the air” for Week 6, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). The Rams initially viewed this as a minor malady, but Gurley is not a lock to suit up against the 49ers. The fifth-year running back has been productive but a cut off his All-Pro form this season. He has yet to post a 100-yard rushing game and, with 338 scrimmage yards, is well off the pace of his past two slates. It would not surprise if the Rams exercised caution here and turned their Week 6 backfield reins over to Malcolm Brown.

Here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • The knee and quad injuries Dee Ford suffered early in his 49ers stay have limited his workloads this season. Ford has played just 33 snaps over the past two games and has not gone through a healthy performer’s practice work. The 49ers holding Ford out of Wednesday and Thursday practices throughout the season would not be a surprise, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. The trade acquisition still rates as a top-20 edge defender, per Pro Football Focus, but has played just 97 snaps this season.
  • After injury trouble and role changes, Arik Armstead entered this season with an uncertain future. But his first four games of a contract year have helped change his status, and John Lynch now indicates the fifth-year defensive lineman will be a sought-after commodity if he reaches the 2020 open market. “What Arik needs to do is keep on playing at that level and he’s going to make his life really easy because a lot of people are going to coveting him, along with us,” Lynch said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. The 2015 first-round pick arrived during Jim Tomsula‘s one-year stay and missed 18 games between the 2016 and ’17 seasons. But Armstead bounced back to play 18 in 2018 and grades as PFF’s No. 14 edge defender through four games. The 49ers have DeForest Buckner extension talks on tap for 2020; they may have to consider the franchise tag for Armstead.
  • An unorthodox Trent Williams destination: the NFC’s Los Angeles team. While other teams have much bigger offensive line needs, Sean McVay coached Williams in Washington. The Redskins also moved the longtime left tackle to guard for a 2018 game. That would be where Williams would play if the Rams traded for him, with Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein entrenched at tackle. The Rams remain confident in left guard Joseph Noteboom, but Vincent Bonsignore of The Athletic notes (subscription required) the team desires immediate improvement up front. PFF grades Noteboom as its fifth-worst full-time guard.
  • While Gurley may miss Week 6, David Johnson is also in danger of a Sunday absence. The Cardinals running back is dealing with a back injury and has missed two practices this week. A 2018 fourth-round pick out of Fordham, Chase Edmonds will start if Johnson cannot go. Johnson has not missed a game since a wrist injury sidelined him for 15 2017 contests.

Breer’s Latest: Jets, Broncos, Rudolph

Some assorted notes from SI.com’s Albert Breer leading up to tonight’s draft…

  • The Jets are beginning to gain some traction on a deal involving the third-overall pick. Breer mentions that the Redskins could be a match, with the team presumably eyeing a quarterback. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins could be an option, as could Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray (if he isn’t taken with the first-overall pick). Breer notes that if the Jets remain in the top-10, they could opt for Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver, who one scout described as “the epitome of a [defensive coordinator] Gregg Williams player.”
  • Missouri quarterback Drew Lock is “rising continuously in draft meetings” among the Broncos front office. The team could be eyeing him with pick No. 10, or they could be preparing for a scenario where Lock falls towards the bottom of the first round.
  • After paying Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr and Danielle Hunter, the Vikings could be looking to deal one of their other pricey veterans. Tight end Kyle Rudolph could be a trade candidate, and Breer writes that he wouldn’t be shocked if the Patriots make a play for the pass-catcher. The writer mentions cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes as well as wideout Laquon Treadwell as trade candidates.
  • Two players who are set to play on their fifth-year option are on the block. Breer writes that Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor and 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead “have been part of trade discussions.” On the flip side, Breer believes that it’s unlikely that the 49ers trade defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.
  • If Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat gets past the Redskins (No. 15), Panthers (No. 16), or Seahawks (No.21), Breer is unsure how far the defensive end could end up falling. Breer points to the Rams as a potential fit at the end of the first round. Reports indicated that Sweat was diagnosed with a heart condition, although there were rumblings today that he may have been misdiagnosed.

Trade Rumors: Cardinals, Armstead, Haskins

The Seahawks and Chiefs agreed to a blockbuster trade earlier today that will send Frank Clark to Kansas City. And as Albert Breer of SI.com writes, the veteran trade market is expected to remain hot this week. Breer says that rival clubs are “keeping an eye” on Cardinals‘ DL Robert Nkemdiche, and given that Nkemdiche suffered a torn ACL in December, it’s possible that he could be had for minimal compensation. He has battled injuries throughout his career and has not really lived up to his potential when on the field, but as a former first-round pick who won’t turn 25 until the regular season starts, it makes sense that he would draw some interest. He did post 4.5 sacks in 10 games (six starts) last year.

Now for more trade rumblings from around the league:

  • Assuming the Cardinals draft Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen expects the club to be patient with a Josh Rosen trade (Twitter link). If they cannot get fair value for Rosen prior to the draft, the Cards could wait until after a few signal-callers come off the board and QB-needy teams start to get a little anxious. We heard earlier today that Arizona is still undecided as to what it will do with the first pick in the draft, but if the Cardinals don’t nab Murray, it would be a major surprise.
  • Breer writes that 49ers‘ DE Arik Armstead is also expected to draw some trade interest, though he remains in San Francisco’s plans. Raiders‘ DT Justin Ellis is also said to be available, while Cowboys WR Allen Hurns is the best wideout that could be had via trade [SOURCE LINK].
  • In a separate piece, Breer writes that rival clubs are monitoring Jaguars LB Telvin Smith and Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr. as potential trade targets, though neither player is on the trade block just yet.
  • Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports continues to hear that the Lions and Jets are interested in trading down from their current first-round slots, and he sees the Falcons as a potential partner for Detroit (Twitter link). Interestingly, Breer hears the same [SOURCE LINK]. Clemson DT Christian Wilkins could be the target if Atlanta wants to move up, though Breer says the team has been “nosing around” offensive linemen as well as defensive linemen.
  • As La Canfora writes in a separate piece, the Redskins could be the Jets‘ trade partner if Washington feels it needs to trade up to land Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins. One way or another, JLC believes the Redskins will come away from the draft with Haskins in tow. This is at least the second time La Canfora has written about a potential deal between Washington and New York.
  • The Chargers are open to trading down from the No. 28 overall pick in Thursday’s draft, per the team’s official website. But given that there is a lot of depth in this draft and not many obvious first-round talents, GM Tom Telesco could find it difficult to execute such a deal.

NFC Notes: Rosen, Panthers, 49ers

Although Patrick Peterson expects Sam Bradford to start the season as the Cardinals‘ quarterback, what he saw early this offseason from Josh Rosen may make that a short-lived arrangement. Peterson said the first-round pick “blew my mind” with the football IQ he was known for challenging coaches with at UCLA.

Just to see him run hurry-up offense, to see him make all different checks, to see him put guys in position, I was completely stunned when I saw it,” Peterson said, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com. “I was like, ‘This guy’s only been here a week, and he’s already doing what? We’re already running two-minute offense now?

I was very, very impressed with that, and he’s definitely the future of our franchise.”

While this praise tops Steve Wilks‘ a bit, it’s consistent with what the first-year Cards coach described about the No. 10 overall pick. Bradford has not been given the Cards’ starting job yet, and he’ll have to show the Cardinals — who slow-played his offseason work due to the major injury concerns attached to the former Heisman Trophy winner — he can stay healthy. An injury-free preseason will likely have Bradford at the controls come Week 1. But the Rosen era appears imminent.

Shifting to another rookie’s standing, here’s what’s new out of the NFC on Friday night.

  • Daryl Worley‘s release leaves the Panthers somewhat vulnerable at cornerback. That hasn’t been an uncertain spot since Josh Norman‘s departure, but David Newton of ESPN.com expects second-round pick Donte Jackson to emerge as the starter opposite James Bradberry. “You see it on the field. You see it when you talk to him,” Ron Rivera said regarding Jackson. “You watch in his gait, the way he carries himself. That’s the type of attitude you have to have to play this game. You have to have a certain kind of swagger.” Ross Cockrell, Kevon Seymour and perhaps slot man Captain Munnerlyn figure to factor into the Panthers’ competition here as well.
  • Speaking of Carolina competitions, Colin Jones has a good shot to start at safety despite his presence as a career special-teamer. The Panthers are counting on the 30-year-old Jones to play opposite 37-year-old Mike Adams, per Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz of USA Today. Carolina, though, signed Da’Norris Searcy and drafted Rashaan Gaulden in the third round, so it would appear Jones may stand to be a stopgap solution. He played 213 defensive snaps last season but only has 13 starts in seven NFL seasons.
  • 49ers defensive ends Arik Armstead and Solomon Thomas are switching positions, per Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com, with the 2017 No. 3 overall pick moving to the “Leo” end spot reserved for the best outside pass rusher in San Francisco’s 4-3 scheme. Thomas played some at this position last season, but Armstead resided there at the outset of the 49ers’ most recent campaign. Armstead being a former defensive tackle makes him a more obvious fit as the “big” end, and the ex-Oregon product has put on weight this offseason to play that role. The 49ers still hope to have Thomas (three sacks as a rookie) shift inside at times on passing downs, though both would profile as players who could join DeForest Buckner inside in sub-packages.