San Francisco 49ers

49ers make easy decision surrounding the contract of defensive tackle DeForest Buckner

San Francisco 49ers: A look at what John Lynch may do in the NFL draft

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch talks about the NFL draft coming April 25, 2019. Ohio State player Nick Bosa and Alabama player Quinnen Williams are mentioned as Chris Biderman gives his takeaways.
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San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch talks about the NFL draft coming April 25, 2019. Ohio State player Nick Bosa and Alabama player Quinnen Williams are mentioned as Chris Biderman gives his takeaways.

The 49ers announced Wednesday they exercised the fifth-year option on budding star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.

The move is not a surprise, as Buckner has been arguably the team’s best and most consistent defensive player since being drafted seventh overall in 2016. He’s coming off a career year that included 12 sacks and a trip to his first Pro Bowl as an injury replacement for Fletcher Cox of the Eagles.

Buckner, 25, has been among the league leaders in snaps played since entering the league and has missed just one game in three seasons. He became eligible for a contract extension for the first time this offseason, though it appears a long-term deal is more likely in 2020.

“We had conversations here and there,” Buckner said at the start of the offseason program last week. “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.

“I’m really just looking forward to being here with the team long term. ... They know what I can bring to the table and what I bring to the team. There’s no rush to it.”

Buckner’s salary on his fifth-year option would become fully guaranteed on the first day of the new league year next March. It’s expected to be in the neighborhood of $12 million to $13 million, though Buckner would likely earn significantly more on a new contract, perhaps $18 million to $20 million per season. Defensive tackle Arik Armsead is expected to play for the 49ers on his fifth-year option at just more than $9 million.

San Francisco is expected to address the defensive line with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft Thursday, either taking Ohio State’s Nick Bosa or Alabama’s Quinnen Williams. Bosa is a more natural fit for the roster at defensive end while Williams would be added to the surplus of defensive tackles, joining Buckner, Armstead and 2017 first-round pick Solomon Thomas.

Regardless of the overlap, general manager John Lynch is confident there would be enough playing time to go around if the 49ers drafted Williams to play with Buckner inside.

“We really feel like that,” Lynch said. “The one thing we’ve tried to do is take some versatile players that can have the flexibility to play inside, outside. And I think that gives you flexibility in who you bring in. Philosophically, coming in waves.”

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