The 49ers spent a high pick on Nick Bosa to bolster their pass rush, but letting DeForest Buckner go would cost them any potential progress.
DeForest Buckner wasn’t good enough to make up for the lack of talent around him on the 49ers defense last season, but he certainly did his part. San Francisco’s front office can’t afford to let Buckner and his 12 sacks walk out the door anytime soon.
Unfortunately for fans in the Bay area, the team and their star defensive lineman are “far apart” on what they believe Buckner is worth in today’s NFL. As such, there is “no deal in sight” between the two parties.
The good news for the 49ers is they still hold all of the leverage in these talks. They recently picked up the last year in Buckner’s rookie deal which will keep him under contract with the team through the end of the 2020 season. Even after that, it’s conceivable that San Francisco could use the franchise tag to hold on to Buckner for several more seasons.
That can’t be the team’s plan though. The front office needs to find a way to get Buckner to commit himself to a long-term deal that will allow them to deploy the franchise tag in another area if need be. Perhaps more importantly, San Francisco needs to keep Buckner happy if they want him to keep producing double-digit sacks on an annual basis.
There’s an easy case to be made that Buckner could be even more effective this season. The team’s decision to spend the No. 2 overall pick on Nick Bosa should give the 49ers defensive line a major infusion of talent. Bosa is a player who could put up double-digit sacks himself during his rookie campaign. If he flashes that kind of productivity, he’ll receive a lot of double teams on the outside.
That could allow Buckner to have a field day against single blockers wherever he lines up. His ability to rush the passer from either the defensive tackle or end position makes him a nightmare for opposing offensive lines to account for. That’s precisely why he notched 12 sacks last season without the benefit of a quality supporting cast.
There’s no reason for panic in San Francisco yet, but 49ers fans should be hoping to hear about progress between their front office and Buckner in the near future. The longer things go without building positive momentum, the more likely it comes that Buckner will play the prime of his career somewhere else.