Did the 49ers Overpay for Arik Armstead?
Jose Luis Sanchez III
On the very first day of free agent tampering period, the San Francisco 49ers locked up defensive lineman Arik Armstead. It was a deal that the two sides have been wanting to get done since the offseason started.
Five-years, $85 million with $48.5 million guaranteed is the finalized deal between the two sides. In response to re-signing Armstead, the 49ers would trade defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts.
It was a trade that gave the impression that the Niners chose Armstead over Buckner. In a way, they did end up doing as Buckner's contract details with the Colts were revealed to be four-years, $84 million, with $56.4 million guaranteed.
Buckner's deal is easily well out of the 49ers' price range. However, his deal may look more fair compared to Armstead. With a questionable injury history and only one elite season, Armstead's deal could be viewed as an overpay.
So did the 49ers overpay for Armstead? Pro Football Focus sure believes so in their in latest article regarding overpaid contracts from free agency.
Arik Armstead saw limited action in the first three seasons of his NFL career from 2015-17, playing fewer than 400 snaps each year and performing pretty average as a pass-rusher. His pass-rush grade in that stretch sat right at the 50th percentile. Armstead then went on to rank 35th of 101 edge defenders in pass-rush grade in 2018 and 27th of 106 in 2019. Armstead is a good player and tremendous athlete, but he is now getting an average $17 million per year — among the 10 highest-paid edge defenders — yet he hasn’t proven to be an elite pass-rusher. He’s a safe, reliable player you’d want on your line, but not for that kind of cheddar.
PFF raises fair points about the signing of Armstead. His overall body of work does not warrant the money he was given, especially compared to Buckner. However, the deal for Armstead isn't as cut-and-dry as it seems.
This is a deal that is actually in favor of the 49ers. The first couple of years in his deal doesn't impact the salary-cap so heavily. And with the cap expected to increase tremendously due to the newly ratified CBA, his contract becomes more and more team friendly. Whereas Buckner's would have hit the 49ers harder.
The Niners had to make a choice and they opted for the best pathway towards long-term success. Comparing the two player's deals side-by-side exclusively does not work. You have to include the other benefits the trade of Buckner gave the 49ers.
San Francisco gained the No. 13 pick, retained the more versatile player in Armstead and freed up good chunk of cap space. That cap space would allow the 49ers to re-sign safety Jimmie Ward and other key role players.
All that is crucial to consider and factor into the analyzing of Armstead's deal.
Did the 49ers overpay for Armstead? Not at all.
It is certainly a gamble to give him that cash, but practically every lucrative deal is a gamble. At least the 49ers benefited greatly from everything that followed after locking him up for the next five-years.