49ers: Extending DeForest Buckner should be the top offseason priority

49ers, DeForest Buckner (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
49ers, DeForest Buckner (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers have quite a few major decisions to make this offseason, but extending DeForest Buckner must remain their top priority.

The San Francisco 49ers may not be able to make nearly as many external additions to their squad this offseason, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have their fair share of internal decisions to make — one of which centers around star defensive lineman DeForest Buckner.

Buckner played the 2019 season on the last year of his four-year rookie deal and is currently scheduled to play under the fifth-year option in 2020. But evidently, the 49ers would love to keep the talented defender around for the long-haul.

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The 25-year-old has been the model of consistency since entering the league and has been among the best interior defensive linemen in the NFL over the past two seasons.

Buckner has accumulated 19.5 sacks over the past two years and has missed just one of 64 possible games in his four-year NFL career. By all measures, Buckner is among the best at his position in the league today.

Extending him should be an obvious decision, but the 49ers find themselves in a bit of a cap bind.

San Francisco is currently projected to have just under $20 million in cap space and with key free agents in Arik Armstead, Jimmie Ward, and Emmanuel Sanders all set to hit the open market, difficult decisions are going to have to be made.

But one way the team could effectively save money in the short-term on top of locking up one of their stars in the long-term would be to extend DeForest Buckner before free agency starts.

Buckner is set to make $14.36 million in 2020 playing on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal. But if the 49ers were to sign him to an extension before that salary kicked in, they’d have the opportunity to make his 2020 cap hit significantly lower.

The 49ers could opt to backload Buckner’s contract which is always a risky move, but one that seems much less risky given the former Oregon star’s consistent production.

It would be a financially savvy move that would help them in the short-term, but it’s also the right move for the future.

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Buckner is one of the cornerstones of the team and keeping him in San Francisco must remain a priority regardless of the situation. Sure they’d love to keep around Armstead, Ward, and Sanders, but Buckner comes first.

The only argument to be made is the pending extension for tight end George Kittle. Kittle will be on the final year of his rookie contract in 2020 but will be making next to nothing.

The superstar tight end undoubtedly deserves his extension — and he will get it — but the team could wait until at least the middle of next season to work on that. After all, there’s no sense in bumping his 2020 cap hit up more than it needs to be.

They just need to make sure that when the time comes, they could pay whatever ridiculous sum of money it takes to keep him in the Bay Area.

But as for now, handing DeForest Buckner his well-deserved extension must remain a top priority for the 49ers. It’s a financially wise decision and it’s safe to say that his play has warranted it.

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The 49ers have some difficult decisions to make, but this one should be a no-brainer.