San Francisco 49ers

49ers to use fifth-year option on Arik Armstead

The 49ers opted to pick up the so-called fifth-year option on Arik Armstead's contract.
The 49ers opted to pick up the so-called fifth-year option on Arik Armstead's contract.

The 49ers opted to pick up the so-called fifth-year option on Arik Armstead's contract, meaning the former first-round pick from Sacramento is under contract through the 2019 season.

All draft picks are signed to four-year deals as rookies. When it comes to first-round picks, however, teams have the option of triggering a fifth year at a higher number that is based on the player's position and where he was taken in the opening round.

Armstead's salary for his final season, which becomes fully guaranteed in March, is a little more than $9 million.

The team has not picked up the fifth-year option for another 2015 first-round pick, guard Laken Tomlinson, although it has until Thursday to do do.

Unlike Armstead, Tomlinson was drafted by another team, the Detroit Lions, and came to the 49ers just before last year's regular season in a trade. Because he's been with San Francisco for just eight months, team officials don't know him as well as Armstead, and his fifth-year option amount, $9.6 million, is a little higher than Armstead's.

The team still could sign Tomlinson to an extension before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in March.

The 49ers plan to use Armstead, the 17th overall pick in 2015, as their starting "big end," which usually plays on the left side of the defensive line. Armstead, a Pleasant Grove High School graduate, appeared in all 16 games as a rookie, but missed big chunks of his second and third seasons with a shoulder injury and a broken hand. He has 56 tackles and six sacks in the 30 games he's played.

The team's current coaches have said that Armstead started to excel last season just as the hand injury occurred. Kyle Shanahan on Saturday used him as an example for why the team didn't draft a pass rusher this year.

"You've got to be pretty good to beat out (Cassius) Marsh. You’ve got to be pretty good to beat out Armstead," he said. "You don't just get guys. If you get them, someone else has got to get cut and we’ve got a pretty good group."

As of now, Armstead's $9 million salary in 2019 would be the 49ers' second-highest base salary behind quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. That's a big amount for someone who's only started 11 of a possible 48 games.

However, not picking up a player's fifth-year option comes with some financial risk as well.

Last year, for example, the Chicago Bears didn't pick up the fifth-year option for cornerback Kyle Fuller, who had been injured. He played well in 2017, was signed to a free-agent offer sheet by the rival Green Bay Packers and Chicago ended up signing Fuller to a four-year deal worth up to $56 million, with $18 million guaranteed.