DeForest Buckner

NFC Notes: Zeke, Buckner, A. Smith

Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is definitely considering a holdout, though Yahoo’s Charles Robinson reports that Elliott has not yet made up his mind one way or another. However, Robinson acknowledged earlier today (via Twitter) that the situation could go sideways fast. He writes that the club has discussed an extension for Elliott for a month or so, but those talks have not progressed in any meaningful way, so Elliott is now exploring his options.

Critically, Robinson notes that Elliott must report to training camp by August 6 in order to get a fourth accrued season towards free agency and preserve his right to hold out next summer if he so chooses. That reality gives Dallas a little more leverage, but Robinson also reports that the two sides are still working towards an agreement and that Elliott’s toying with the idea of a holdout has not yet strained the relationship between player and team.

Elliott and his camp will take this week to assess his options. If Elliott agrees to report on time, perhaps the team will assure him that it will prioritize an extension for him before the regular season. To date, a new deal for Elliott has not been on the top of Dallas’ to-do list.

We rounded up some NFC notes earlier today, and now we’ll dive into more items from the National Football Conference:

  • Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com says that Grady Jarrett‘s 2019 salary cap number will shrink to $11MM as a result of the extension he signed today. That will give the Falcons just shy of $11MM in cap space, which will help them sign Deion Jones to a new deal (Jones’ $1.45MM 2019 cap number will almost certainly go up if and when the club inks him to an extension of his own).
  • The last we heard, the 49ers and DeForest Buckner had not made much progress in extension talks, and Joel Corry of CBS Sports says that the contract San Francisco gave to Dee Ford after acquiring him via trade could be complicating Buckner negotiations (Twitter link). The club is set on using a team-friendly structure just like it always does — and just as it did with Ford — and it will not change its M.O. for Buckner, which is surely a sticking point for 2016’s No. 7 overall pick.
  • Kevin Patra of NFL.com reports that Redskins QB Alex Smith was able to shed the external fixator that had been keeping his leg in place since the horrific injury he suffered last year, an injury that has put his playing career in serious jeopardy. But Smith is committed to returning to the field, and this is a big step in his recovery.
  • Seahawks RB C.J. Prosise may be a release candidate, but Seattle head coach Pete Carroll says the oft-injured tailback is very much in the mix for a roster spot. Carroll said, per John Boyle of Seahawks.com, “[Prosise] has been fit throughout, he’s really strong, worked out really hard in the offseason to get his strength right, and his weight is up, but he’s fit and has really been able to do a little bit of everything. So to add him into the competition is really nice. So we’re fired up about C.J. being back.”

49ers, DeForest Buckner Far Apart On Talks

The 49ers and star defensive lineman DeForest Buckner have had contract negotiations for a long-term deal, but but they remain far apart on terms, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter) hears. Agent Chafie Fields has talked with team brass over the last few days, but there is no deal in sight. 

The Niners exercised Buckner’s fifth-year option last week and a long-term pact remains a priority for the club. The former No. 7 overall pick is coming off a breakout 2018 campaign in which he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 23rd-best defensive lineman. He started all 16 games, and racked up 12 sacks while also being a force against the run.

For now, the fifth-year option is slated to pay Buckner $12.378MM in 2020. The Niners can ill-afford to lose him after that, especially since 2017’s No. 3 overall pick Solomon Thomas hasn’t panned out so far.

The good news for the 49ers is that Buckner isn’t necessarily in a rush to ink a multi-year pact.

“We’ve had conversations here and there. Honestly, it’s very early,” Buckner said in April. “Just because I’m eligible for a new contract going into my fourth year, it’s still very early in the process.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Exercise DeForest Buckner’s Fifth-Year Option

The 49ers are officially keeping one of their best players in the fold. Unsurprisingly, the team has exercised the fifth-year option for defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, they announced in a tweet.

An Oregon product, Buckner was drafted seventh overall by the 49ers back in 2016. Just last week we heard Buckner isn’t likely to land an extension this offseason, so he’ll have to wait a while before getting a new deal. That was a departure from a report that came out toward the end of this past season, which indicated the two sides would discuss a deal this spring.

Buckner is coming off a breakout 2018 campaign, and will be looking to cash-in soon. Last season Buckner graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 23rd-best defensive lineman. He started all 16 games, and racked up 12 sacks while also being a force against the run. The fifth-year option is slated to pay Buckner $12.378MM in 2020.

The 49ers drafted Solomon Thomas third overall in 2017 to put next to Buckner, but so far Thomas hasn’t panned out. San Francisco picks second overall tomorrow night, and many observers expect them to draft another defensive lineman. They’ve been heavily linked to both Nick Bosa of Ohio State, and Quinnen Williams of Alabama.

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No Extension Likely For 49ers DT DeForest Buckner This Offseason

We heard towards the end of 2018 that the 49ers and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner would be discussing an extension this offseason. After all, now that the 2016 first-round pick has three years of service time, he is eligible for a new contract, and he appears to be coming into his own after a breakout 2018 campaign.

But Matt Barrows of The Athletic (subscription required) says it’s unlikely that the two sides agree to a new deal before the season begins. Buckner’s standard four-year rookie contract keeps him under club control at a bargain salary of $720K this year, and San Francisco will soon pick up his fifth-year option that ties him to the club through 2020. It’s unclear whether Buckner or the team chose to table an extension for the time being, but speculatively, it could be that Buckner wants to put together a 2019 season that builds on his 2018 production and further enhances his value before he and his agent get serious about a new deal.

Buckner himself said, “We’ve had conversations here and there. Honestly, it’s very early. Just because I’m eligible for a new contract going into my fourth year, it’s still very early in the process.”

Buckner’s ability to generate pressure from the interior of the defensive line will make him a highly-desirable commodity should he ever hit the open market, and if he produces another double-digit sack season — he posted 12 sacks in 2018, the first time he recorded double-figures — he will almost certainly land a contract paying him over $20MM per season, whether that comes from the 49ers or from some other club. His abilities as a run stopper will only increase his asking price.

With the 49ers’ addition of Dee Ford — and perhaps an elite collegiate prospect like Nick Bosa — to the front seven, Buckner should certainly be able to replicate last year’s success.

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49ers, DeForest Buckner To Discuss Deal

Earlier this week, Kyle Shanahan identified DeForest Buckner as a player he wanted to be a 49er for many years. The franchise appears to be intent on exploring how to make that happen soon.

Buckner becomes extension-eligible after this season, and the standout defensive tackle said his representatives plan to meet with the 49ers this coming offseason, per Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle (on Twitter). Connecting the dots points to early extension discussions.

Represented by Joel Segal and Charlie Fields, Buckner said (via Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News, Twitter link) he and his agents have discussed offseason strategy in recent weeks. Despite narrowly missing the NFC’s Pro Bowl roster, Buckner has been one of the NFL’s best interior defenders this season and would be in line to command a top-market deal.

While Buckner becomes eligible to sign a new deal soon, the 49ers can control him on his rookie contract through the 2020 season. That non-decision decision is due in May. Buckner has 11 sacks — already the most by a 49ers inside defender since Dana Stubblefield 20 years ago — and does not turn 25 until next year. The top non-Aaron Donald defensive tackle price will be within reach.

Considering Donald’s recently agreed-to extension is worth $22.5MM per year and the next-highest-paid inside lineman is Fletcher Cox at $17.1MM AAV, there will be some gap-bridging for these sides to do. But some preliminary talks are likely about to commence.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

West Rumors: 49ers, Seahawks, Chargers

49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has a “real good chance” to participate — at least, on a limited basis — during San Francisco’s 2019 organized team activities in late May/early June of 2019, head coach Kyle Shanahan told Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Garoppolo suffered a torn ACL in late September, so returning at the end of the May would give him roughly eight months of recovery. As Shanahan notes, quarterbacks like Garoppolo aren’t necessarily going to need the same amount of recovery time as a player at another position that needs to run and cut, so May seems like a realistic target date.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two West divisions:

  • Shanahan also told reporters that he hasn’t necessarily considered an extension for defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, but was quick to add that Buckner is someone the 49ers want on their roster “for a long time,” tweets Matt Barrows of The Athletic. Buckner will become eligible for a new deal when San Francisco’s season concludes, but there’s no rush, as he’ll be under contract through 2020 when the 49ers inevitably exercise his fifth-year option for 2020. The No. 7 overall pick in the 2016 draft, Buckner has become an under-the-radar superstar in his third NFL campaign, ranking fifth among interior defenders in tackles for loss and seventh in quarterback hits.
  • Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright could be available to play against the Chiefs on Sunday night, according to Brady Henderson on ESPN.com“The ramping up has worked out fine and he’s ready to go,” head coach Pete Carroll said. Wright underwent knee surgery in August and subsequently missed Seattle’s first seven games. He came back in Week 8 and managed to play in three straight contests, but struggled during that time. Now that he’s been given several more weeks to rest, Wright could be fully ready for the stretch run and the postseason.
  • While Wright is set to return to action in the near future, the same can’t be said for Chargers linebacker Kyzir White. Although White is eligible to come off injured reserve in time for the postseason, that course of action doesn’t appear likely, per Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com (Twitter link). A fourth-round rookie out of West Virginia, White had played extremely well in three NFL starts (especially in coverage) before going down with a knee injury. With both White and fellow ‘backer Denzel Perryman out for the year, Los Angeles has been deploying a single-LB defense, with only Jatavis Brown seeing more than 25% playtime over the past several weeks.
  • Raiders owner Mark Davis says he doesn’t regret trading edge defender Khalil Mack nor wide receiver Amari Cooper, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link). Oakland received a bevy of picks for Mack and a first-round selection for Cooper, and will now have three first-rounders in the 2019 draft. However, both the Bears (who acquired Mack) and the Cowboys (who received Cooper) are now headed for the postseason, meaning the value of their picks that were sent to the Raiders has decreased.

West Notes: 49ers, Cardinals, Ford

The 49ers have used three first-round picks on defensive linemen since 2015, and each of those figures to be in the starting lineup Sunday. With Tank Carradine on IR, Solomon Thomas will likely start at San Francisco’s strong-side defensive end spot, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee notes. The 49ers have used Thomas as an edge defender, but DC Robert Saleh envisions the No. 2 overall pick as a “premier inside rusher” once he develops. Saleh said Thomas “could be a good edge rusher,” so it’s clear the first-year 49ers coordinator wants to see how the Stanford product functions from a defensive tackle spot.

We do need to find ways to get him inside to rush the passer a little bit more,” Saleh said, via Barrows.

The 49ers, though, used first-round picks on interior defenders Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner the previous two years. Buckner rates as Pro Football Focus’ No. 3 interior defender, behind only J.J. Watt and Ndamukong Suh, through three games. The new-look 49ers defensive staff wanted to decrease Buckner’s workload upon being hired, Saleh calling it “criminal” for Buckner to exceed 1,000 snaps as he did as a rookie, but Barrows observes those stances softening as the season’s begun. At 179 defensive plays, Buckner is on pace for nearly the 1,005 snaps he played last season now. Injuries to Carradine and Ronald Blair, and the release of current Packers cog Quinton Dial, has thinned out a potential 49ers D-line rotation.

Here’s the latest from the Western divisions.

  • The Cardinals are not receiving Jared Veldheer‘s best work thus far this season. The team’s move of the veteran left tackle to the right side has not gone well, and Veldheer might be playing in his final Arizona season. While Veldheer took a day away from the team to consider leaving football earlier this year, Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com notes (on Twitter) the veteran lineman would like to return in 2018. However, Jurecki does not expect him to stay with the Cardinals. Veldheer’s in the fourth season of a five-year, $35MM deal — one that includes a $10.25MM cap hold for 2018. He profiles as a cap casualty at this point.
  • Deone Bucannon will make his season debut after an extensive layoff due to an ankle injury. Bruce Arians confirmed the inside linebacker will be ready to suit up in Week 4. Haason Reddick, the fill-in player here, will likely start Sunday while Bucannon is gradually worked back into the fold, per Arians.
  • The Chiefs, though, will be without a key front-seven piece in their Week 4 game. Dee Ford will miss Kansas City’s Monday-night home game against Washington. With Tamba Hali already being conserved for the stretch run via the PUP list, this will leave the AFC West leaders thin at outside linebacker. Ford’s dealing with a back injury.
  • The gap between Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard remains too wide for the 49ers to consider a quarterback change, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com writes. Hoyer’s system knowledge giving the embattled 49ers their best chance to win now makes him unlikely to be unseated any time soon, Maiocco notes.

Extra Points: 49ers, Buckner, Texans, Moore

Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner played more than 1,000 snaps during his rookie campaign with the 49ers last year, a figure that new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh calls “criminal,” as Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee writes. Not only will San Francisco be transitioning to a 4-3 front in 2017, but the club will look to run a rotation along the defensive line in an effort to keep individual players fresh. 2015 first-round pick Arik Armstead should see his snaps increase during the upcoming season, while the additions of No. 3 overall selection Solomon Thomas and free agent signees Earl Mitchell and Elvis Dumervil will also give the 49ers more options up front. San Francisco ranked 20th in adjusted sack rate and 29th in adjusted line yards.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • The Texans recently added a pair of depth veterans in offensive tackle Breno Giacomini and linebacker Sio Moore, but neither player will take up much cap room in 2017, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter links). Giacomini, who’s expected to help fill in at right tackle for the injured Derek Newton, will receive a $750K signing bonus, a non-guaranteed base salary of $1MM, and can earn up to $1MM in gameday active roster bonuses. Moore, meanwhile, will come even cheaper, as he’s on a minimum salary benefit deal. As such, he can earn $775K while only counting for $615K on the Texans’ cap.
  • While running back contracts are on the fiscal decline, deals for backs are increasingly reliant on incentive-based pay, as Joel Corry of CBSSports.com explains. Recent pacts for veterans such as Latavius Murray, Marshawn Lynch, and Adrian Peterson all contain some sort of performance-based money, whether through bonuses or escalators. Those clauses can often artificially inflate the value of contracts — in the case of Peterson, for example, more than 50% of his deal’s maximum value comes in the form of incentives.
  • While it’s a strategy that could be viewed as dangerous to the integrity of the game or a smart tactic in order to rebuild, “tanking” has afflicted the NFL in the past few seasons in the forms of the Browns and (certainly in 2017) the Jets. If the league wants to force teams to be competitive, it could institute an NBA-esque lottery system for the draft, as Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk opines. By giving each of the 20 non-playoff teams the same chance to earn the No. 1 overall pick, the NFL could dissuade clubs from failing to put forth a full effort.

Impact Rookies: San Francisco 49ers

The old adage that defense wins championships may or may not be true, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a title-winning team that didn’t build heavily through the draft. Rookie classes, naturally, are evaluated on the perceived upside of the NFL newcomers, but which rookies are ready to contribute right out of the gate? And, how do they fit in with their new team schematically?

To help us forecast the immediate future of these NFL neophytes, we enlisted the help of draft guru Dave-Te Thomas who has served as a scouting personnel consultant to NFL teams for multiple decades.

Out of eleven selections, we here at The NFL Draft Report only see one 49ers draft pick making a significant mark in 2016.

First Round – DeForest Buckner, DL (Oregon, No. 7 overall)

A “tall drink of water” at a shade over 6:07, Buckner entered the 2015 bowl season having produced 225 tackles (104 solos) that included seventeen sacks (eleventh on the school career-record chart) for -118 yards. His 34.5 stops-for-loss ranked ninth in Oregon history, good for losses of 154 yards. Additionally, he registered thirty quarterback pressures, with six of those hurries causing interceptions, as Oregon converted those turnovers into touchdown drives. He also caused three fumbles and recovered two others that led to Ducks scores. DeForest Buckner

Buckner has outstanding size and a developing frame, adding fifteen pounds of solid muscle mass to it during the 2015 off-season. He has a solid upper body frame, with a wide back, long arms, good lower body strength and room on his frame for additional growth. He has broad shoulders, good bubble, thick thighs and a tight waist. He has a very long torso, arms and legs. A well-proportioned athlete with good upper body muscle development, he has good shoulder size and width, large hands, good bubble, thick thighs, and calves.

The Oregon standout has incredible moves off the edge and can change direction immediately. Buckner shows very good hip strike on contact and is a normal strider who plays with leverage and above average body quickness. He has the burst to penetrate and balance much like a linebacker. Buckner can be an “elephant” (hybrid rush end/linebacker) or just a tenacious defensive end with a high motor and excellent intensity.

From a sheer strength point, Buckner has more natural power than you would expect. He generates a good jolt in his hips and hands to rock the offensive tackle back on his heels during the bull rush. He has more than enough speed and explosion to get an edge. Despite his size, he is stronger than he looks, as he plays with leverage and keeps his pads down, making it tough to block him head-on. He rarely ever gets washed by some down blocks, as he can simply overpower his opponent when heading up the gut (see 2015 Washington, California, Arizona State, and Stanford games). He is best coming off the edge, but he has that long reach and strong hand punch to play off the offensive tackle and quickly locate the ball in backside pursuit. In 33 games of film view, he has never been widened or steered away from the play in any phase.

Last season, Buckner honed his wrap-up tackling technique and became more explosive in that area. The 6’7″, 287 pound athlete is fun to watch as he stalks, chases, wraps, and drags down the ball carrier, as he looks like a spider engulfing the ball carrier to get a piece of the opponent’s body. When he is closing on the quarterback, he shows even more explosion. He is best in open quarters, but he has more than enough power to battle in-line.

As a rookie, Buckner is being slotted in as a starting defensive end in the Niners’ 3-4 alignment. With 2015 first-round pick Arik Armstead at the other bookend and 26-year-old Quinton Dial in the middle, this is a young defensive line that will grow together. Expect Buckner to impress right out of the gate and show the world why he was a Top 10 pick in this year’s draft.

Dave-Te Thomas owns and operates The NFL Draft Report, a service providing insight to league scouting departments for over 40 years. All year round, you can read Thomas’ in-depth reviews of both blue chip prospects and diamonds in the rough by visiting the NFL Draft Report blog.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Sign DeForest Buckner, Draftees, UDFAs

The 49ers have confirmed the previously-reported signings of sixth-round draft picks Kelvin Taylor and Jeff Driskel, and announced nearly two dozen more roster moves to go along with those signings. In a press release, the Niners said they have waived four players from their 90-man roster, signed nine draft picks (including Taylor and Driskel), and added 12 undrafted free agents to the mix.DeForest Buckner

San Francisco’s most notable transaction is the signing of defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, who becomes the highest-drafted player to ink his rookie contract so far. Buckner, a standout at Oregon, was snagged by the 49ers with the seventh overall pick in last week’s draft, and is in line for a four-year contract worth more than $18.19MM, including a signing bonus of approximately $11.43MM. His deal also features a fifth-year option for 2020.

Listed below are the other draftees signed today by the 49ers, in addition to Buckner, Taylor, and Driskel. Only first-round guard Joshua Garnett and third-round defensive back Will Redmond are still unsigned:

While the 49ers had plenty of space on their roster for their draft picks, the team didn’t have much extra flexibility to add more than a handful of undrafted free agents. As such, San Francisco has cut four veterans: offensive lineman Jordan Devey, kicker Corey Acosta, running back Kendall Gaskins, and quarterback Dylan Thompson.

Devey is perhaps the most notable name in this group — the 49ers didn’t make many headlines when they acquired him from the Patriots in a trade for tight end Asante Cleveland last August, but Devey unexpectedly made his way into the club’s starting lineup to open the season. Although he was replaced down the stretch, the 28-year-old made nine starts and played nearly 400 offensive snaps for San Francisco in 2015.

With a few spots cleared on their 90-man roster, the Niners officially added 12 undrafted free agents. Here’s the full list of those UDFAs:

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