DeForest Buckner

Colts Notes: Hines, Rivers, Buckner, DL

Even after drafting Jonathan Taylor in the second round to pair with Marlon Mack, the Colts say Nyheim Hines will continue to enjoy a meaningful role in the offense. Ideally, Hines says he’d also like to make a dent in the return game.

I’d love to do punt and kick returns again,” Hines said (via Joel A. Erickson of the Indy Star). “But I’ve got to go out there and earn both of the jobs. That’s what I plan on doing. I’d like to start at both of them.”

Hines made a strong case for the job last year, tallying the third-highest punt-return yardage total in the league in just nine attempts. Still, he’ll have to vie with fellow speedsters Parris Campbell and Isaiah Rodgers for the gig this summer.

More from Indy:

  • Philip Rivers has arrived in Indianapolis and has taken the lead role in organizing players-only workouts in the area, Stephen Holder of The Athletic notes (subscription required). These workouts are expected to take place next week. Players are not expected to be back at their teams’ facilities until training camp, though some momentum may be building to an earlier arrival.
  • Speaking of Rivers, his transition to the Colts will be easier than other relocating quarterbacks’ adjustments to their respective teams. While Tom Brady is learning a system that differs considerably from his Patriots setup, the Colts will use use essentially “the exact same system” as the one the Chargers used when Frank Reich and OC Nick Sirianni coached Rivers out west, Colts quarterbacks coach Marcus Brady said (via Colts.com’s Andrew Walker). They have installed roughly 90% of their offense already.
  • The biggest name on Indianapolis’ defense, however, profiled as a fairly unknown commodity to the team’s defensive line coach. New Colts D-line coach Brian Baker spent the past four years as a college coach, working with Mississippi State and Alabama, but will now coach Pro Bowler DeForest Buckner. Baker evidently did not catch many 49ers games during that time. “I’ve been away from it for a while, and I didn’t really know who DeForest was,” Baker said, via Walker. “My energy was focusing on college players and recruiting. So I didn’t know who he was, and I’m like, ‘Who’s the big ‘ol 99? This dude can play. And I’m like, ‘Man, it’d be great …’ and you end up looking, ‘OK, DeForest Buckner,‘ like, ‘Man, it’d be good to get this guy.'”
  • Buckner and Justin Houston will start for the Colts up front. But after that, competitions will commence to see who joins them, Baker added. Third-year defensive end Kemoko Turay appears to be the leading candidate to work opposite Houston. A starter at defensive tackle the past two years, Denico Autry will face off against ex-49ers starter Sheldon Day and third-year player Tyquan Lewis for the job alongside Buckner.

West Notes: 49ers, Dissly, Raiders

With DeForest Buckner‘s asking price starting at $20MM per year, the 49ers gave the Pro Bowl defensive tackle’s agent permission to seek a trade at the Combine, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Lynch told Joel Segal, Buckner’s agent, that the four-year San Francisco starter had earned a megadeal. But in order for the 49ers to sign off on a trade, a first-round pick had to be involved. Segal found a taker in the Colts before the Combine’s conclusion.

Not only did he bring back a first-round pick, he brought back the 13th pick,” Lynch said. “And then, it’s like, ‘Whoa, I didn’t think he’d do that.’ By that point, you start looking at how we can keep our team together. And I guess a long story short, it’s not something we wanted to do, but at a certain point, we felt like that was the best decision.”

The 49ers opted to extend Arik Armstead at $17MM per year, instead trading Buckner to the Colts and drafting defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw 14th overall. Buckner signed a $21MM-AAV deal with Indianapolis. Here is more from San Francisco as well as some news from the AFC West:

  • Lynch called Ron Rivera before the draft, hoping to finalize a Trent Williams trade before the virtual event began, Breer adds. The Redskins HC informed the 49ers GM “too much interest” was coming Washington’s way for the long-disgruntled tackle to have a trade done before the draft. While the 49ers rated Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs rated “incredibly high,” they preferred Kinlaw in an effort to keep their defensive line as one of the NFL’s deepest position groups. Allowing the Buccaneers to draft Wirfs at No. 13, via one-slot trade-down, preceded the 49ers winning the Williams sweepstakes. Rivera called Lynch Saturday morning to inform that San Francisco’s Friday offer of third- and fifth-round picks was enough to close a deal, according to the 49ers GM.
  • Will Dissly has suffered season-ending injuries early in each of his two NFL campaigns. The Seahawks are not ready to give up on him, however. Despite Seattle signing Greg Olsen and drafting Colby Parkinson in Round 4, Dissly is a roster lock — as long as he’s healthy — according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. Regarding Dissly’s health, he fully expects to be ready for training camp, per Omar Ruiz of NFL.com (video link). A 2018 fourth-rounder who has played in just 10 NFL games, Dissly suffered an Achilles tear in October of last year.
  • The Raiders are not looking to move Lamarcus Joyner back to safety. They hope to keep the ex-Rams safety as a slot corner, to the point it affected the team’s pursuit of All-Decade defender Chris Harris, Vic Tafur of The Athletic writes (subscription required). The Raiders were in on Harris, but the ex-Broncos slot standout preferred the Chargers to the Raiders.
  • The Seahawks, whose top two running backs are recovering from injuries, are not closing the door on another Marshawn Lynch contract.

49ers Balked At DeForest Buckner’s Price

After months of rumors indicating the 49ers’ priority hierarchy placed George Kittle and DeForest Buckner extensions atop the franchise’s agenda, Buckner is now a Colt and Arik Armstead has a long-term 49ers contract. Buckner’s 11th-hour negotiations with the 49ers appear to have been a fork-in-the-road moment for the franchise.

The 49ers began talking an extension with their standout defensive tackle last year, only to table a Buckner deal until 2020. However, after those discussions produced a price the 49ers deemed too high, the team began holding trade talks at the Combine, Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required).

Buckner’s agent and the 49ers engaged in discussions at the Combine as well, per Barrows. That may have been a last-ditch effort, based on what happened next. The sides were far apart on extension value as far back as May 2019. Two weeks after the 49ers searched for trade partners, the Combine’s host team came in with a successful offer.

The Colts valued Buckner immensely, authorizing a $21MM-per-year deal. That price is just $1.5MM off Aaron Donald‘s AAV and worth more than any edge rusher not named Khalil Mack. The 49ers then signed Armstead to a five-year, $85MM deal. While saving $4MM per year by pivoting to an Armstead re-up over a Buckner deal, the 49ers will also gamble on the former’s contract year compared to the latter’s superior body of work. Of course, San Francisco also holds the No. 13 overall pick now and still employs four former first-round picks along its defensive line.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Trade DeForest Buckner To Colts

The 49ers have agreed to trade All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Colts, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. In this stunner of a deal, the Colts will send their first-round pick (No. 13 overall) to San Francisco and sign Buckner to a newly-minted monster contract. 

Buckner’s new pact will pay him $21MM per year and make him the second-highest paid DT in league history. Now, only Aaron Donald ranks higher on the all-time list at the position.

The deal leaves the Niners with a major hole to fill on their world-class defensive front. The deal also gives them additional draft artillery. The 49ers now own two first-round picks (Nos. 13 and 31 overall), which they could quickly parlay into a larger stockpile. As of this writing, they have no picks in Rounds 2, 3, or 4. One of those first-rounders will now likely be traded for better depth in April, Schefter tweets.

Just hours ago, the 49ers struck a deal to keep defensive lineman Arik Armstead in the fold for the long-haul. His five-year deal, potentially worth $85MM, seemed to signal that the Niners would be keeping the band together. Instead, it was one half of a difficult choice the 49ers felt they had to make. With the trade, the Niners will be able to apply their limited cash to other areas and replenish with younger talent in the draft.

The former No. 7 overall pick was exceptional in 2019 and was awarded an All-Pro selection for his performance. The Oregon product tallied 62 tackles, nine for a loss, and 7.5 sacks last year as the 49ers rumbled their way to the Super Bowl. With 28.5 career sacks, he has a proven track record of getting to the quarterback and changing the complexion of any game.

The Colts, meanwhile, entered the offseason with adding pass-rush help high on their to-do list. They were particularly soft on the interior; so the upgrade that Buckner provides cannot be understated.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, things seem to be heating up with Philip Rivers. The Colts just might start free agency with the acquisition of two superstars to address their two biggest areas of need.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC West Rumors: Cousins, 49ers, Seahawks

Prior to the Patriots sending Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers for merely a second-round pick, rumblings of a Kyle ShanahanKirk Cousins reunion occurred. Shanahan admitted Cousins was in the 49ers’ pre-Garoppolo plans. Although Garoppolo just quarterbacked the 49ers to Super Bowl LIV, the prospect of the 49ers jettisoning Garoppolo and signing Cousins in 2021 has popped up on some radars around the league, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Cousins’ fully guaranteed Vikings contract expires at season’s end, and Garoppolo’s 49ers-friendly deal contains no more guaranteed money.

Cousins played under Shanahan with the Redskins from 2012-13, though Robert Griffin III was Washington’s starter for most of that span. Cousins will turn 32 this year, and the cap-strapped Vikings are expected to explore an extension for their third-year starter soon. If no deal gets done by Week 1, the throwback Cousins-to-San Francisco plotline may gain steam.

Here is the latest from the NFC West, moving first to the defensive side of the 49ers’ depth chart:

  • DeForest Buckner‘s fifth-year option price will drop from $14.36MM to $12.38MM, according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). This reflects Buckner’s place as a defensive tackle, and not an end, in the 49ers’ 4-3 scheme. The 49ers hope to finalize a Buckner extension this offseason, and this adjustment figures to play into the talks. The Pro Bowl inside defender is entering a contract year.
  • Linked to being less than eager to wade into deep salary waters to retain Jadeveon Clowney, the Seahawks may be concerned with the free agent-to-be’s injury history. That could well be the reason the Seahawks are not prepared to pay Clowney north of $20MM AAV, John Clayton of 710 AM Seattle notes. A few other Clowney suitors have emerged — including the Giants, Colts and Titans — and Clayton expects the 2019 trade acquisition to leave Seattle soon.
  • Not only is Clowney a free agent, but so are D-linemen Jarran Reed, Quinton Jefferson and Ziggy Ansah. The Seahawks would like to re-sign Jefferson, but Clayton adds that the defensive tackle has generated steady interest on the market. Jefferson has 6.5 sacks over the past two seasons and, thanks to plus run defense, graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 27 interior defender in 2019.
  • The 49ers will be in the market for receiver help, but Matt Barrows of The Athletic notes (subscription required) the cap space-starved franchise’s likely goal will be for a modest Emmanuel Sanders market to entice him to re-sign. Shanahan and John Lynch may be waiting to see what teams offer the soon-to-be 33-year-old wideout, with Sanders revealing this week he and the 49ers had not engaged in an extension talks this offseason.
  • Despite the 49ers using Tevin Coleman as their RB2 in Super Bowl LIV, Raheem Mostert and Matt Breida remain low-cost options and may have better routes back to the 2020 roster. In addition to Jerick McKinnon needing to redo his lucrative deal to stay on the team, Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News writes Coleman might have to do the same. It would be interesting to see Shanahan cut bait on Coleman, whom he’s now coached for two teams. Coleman is set to make $4.55MM in base salary in the final year of his deal.

49ers Pushing For DeForest Buckner Extension

DeForest Buckner is set to hit free agency following the 2020 season, and the 49ers are apparently motivated to sign him to a long-term deal. Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com writes that the organization is “pushing to try to make” an extension a “reality.”

The 2016 first-round pick has emerged as one of the 49ers top players, as he’s collected 19.5 sacks over the past two seasons. He got a Pro Bowl nod following his breakout 2018 campaign, and he earned first-team All-Pro recognition following the 2019 season.

Last April, the organization exercised the fifth-year option on the defensive tackle. He’ll earn a $14.36MM base salary in 2020 before hitting free agency next spring.

While the 49ers may be working on an extension for Buckner, the front office will also have to switch focus to their current free agents. Earlier today, wideout Emmanuel Sanders revealed that his camp hasn’t had any discussions with the 49ers regarding a new contract (Twitter link).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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 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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.