The 49ers say they wanted to re-sign DeForest Buckner, but couldn’t because it was too expensive, so they re-signed Arik Armstead, which is cheaper.
This is their story. But it is not complete.
Technically, Armstead is cheaper than Buckner. The 49ers pay Armstead $ 17 million per season on average and the Colts pay Buckner $ 21 million per season on average. But the Colts faced Buckner’s case, while the 49ers charged Armstead. So Armstead will become more expensive than Buckner after 2021.
Here’s how much Armstead will count on the 49ers salary cap over the next five years:
2020: $ 6 million.
2021: $ 12.5 million.
2022: $ 20 million.
2023: $ 21.7 million.
2024 $ 23.2 million.
Here’s how much Buckner will count on the Colts’ salary cap over the next five years.
2020: $ 23.3 million.
2021: $ 17 million.
2022: $ 16 million.
2023: $ 19.7 million.
2024: $ 20.2 million.
Buckner will become a good deal for his performance level after 2020. And after 2021, the Colts can cut him or trade him for a zero cap penalty, not that they want to get rid of him.
Compare Buckner to Armstead, which will become quite expensive after 2021. And if the 49ers want to cut or swap it anytime, they should pay a big penalty. They are committed to Armstead for the long term.
This means that Buckner’s contract is more user-friendly for the team than that of Armstead.
So why did the 49ers sign Armstead and not Buckner?
Simple: The 49ers wanted to bring as many of their 2019 teams as possible for another Super Bowl race, and Buckner will cost $ 17 million more than Armstead in 2020. But the 49ers will soon have to reload their roster – it’s getting expensive and many key players will be free agents next year and the year after. The 49ers cannot keep this exact team together much longer.
If they win the Super Bowl in the next two seasons, signing Armstead and keeping the team intact was the right decision, and the 49ers will not care what price he gets when he gets older.
If they don’t win the Super Bowl in the next two seasons, signing Armstead was the wrong choice. Because they will have to reorganize their list while paying him about $ 21.5 million per season from 2022 to 2024, when they could have had Buckner, a younger and superior player, for about $ 18.5 million per season from 2022 to 2024. And the 49ers regret the day they decided to keep Armstead against Buckner.
Because they absolutely could have kept Buckner. It was not too expensive. It would simply have cost a lot of money for a season.
That’s the whole story.