Arik Armstead signed a 5 year, $85,000,000 contract with the San Francisco 49ers back in early March 2020.
Coming off of a tremendous 10 sack season, the 49ers rewarded Armstead will a sweet deal. However, electing to re-sign Armstead contributed to DeForest Buckner's departure. With Buckner out and signing a new deal after a career season, the expectations for Armstead were at an all-time high. He needed to replicate and even build upon what he did in 2019.
Unfortunately for him and the 49ers, it did not go that way. Armstead looked to be a shell of himself in 2020. He only accumulated 3.5 sacks along with his quarterback hurries (10) and pressures (23) dropping this past season per Pro Football Reference. You just never saw Armstead dominate a game or come up with the clutch play like last season.
So what went wrong with Armstead?
Simple. He did not have a stellar supporting cast like he did in 2019. When the 49ers elected to re-sign Armstead, they didn't do so with the thought that he can become significantly better. While that is always the hope, the 49ers retained him because they know how dominant he can be with other adequate pieces around him, especially an edge rush.
With Nick Bosa and Dee Ford in the fold, all of a sudden Armstead had the best year of his career. Take away those two, then all of a sudden he becomes the center of attention.
Armstead was forced to play out on the edge more often than not in 2020. That is why trades for linebacker Jordan Willis from the Jets occurred, so that the 49ers could try to kick Armstead inside more often. If Bosa and Ford were healthy, Armstead's production would have increased exponentially. Or at least if Bosa was healthy, because he is that much of a threat to the opposition.
Now I know that is not what some fans want to hear. If Armstead is being paid so much, he should not need to be THAT reliant on other players.
But that is the reality of where the 49ers are it with him.
Armstead saw a dramatic increase in double teams and chips than he did in prior seasons as former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh explained Armstead's decline. Whenever Saleh talked about Armstead, he always referred to how violent he is and defended his lack of production with reason. He knows that it is just Armstead out there with a bunch of rotational players.
If Saleh was never concerned with Armstead's performance, then fans shouldn't be either. I would like to think Saleh knows what he is talking about given the tenure he had with the 49ers. Plus, the attention given to Armstead likely factored into Kerry Hyder Jr.'s great season.
Armstead is who he is. A solid player who improves a defensive line, but cannot be the leading force of it. His versatility is what made the 49ers enticed to keep him.
Bosa should be returning in 2021, along with potentially another edge rush addition, and when that happens, watch Armstead suddenly make a ton of more plays.