49ers: Arik Armstead cashes in on well-deserved payday

The San Francisco 49ers have officially re-signed defensive lineman Arik Armstead to a long-term deal extending his time in the Bay Area.

The San Francisco 49ers didn’t waste any time making their first and likely only major move of free agency inking a brand new long-term extension for defensive lineman Arik Armstead.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on Monday that the 49ers had re-signed Armstead to a massive five-year, $85 million extension — a well-deserved payday for one of the team’s best defenders.

Armstead put together a career year in 2019 finishing with 10 sacks while finishing with an elite 89.8 Pro Football Focus grade. After four years of disappointment, the 49ers finally saw potential turn into production.

San Francisco originally selected Armstead with the 17th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, but it took a while for him to finally put it all together on the field. Armstead struggled through injuries in his first four seasons and was never able to carve out a defined role on defense.

Was he an edge rusher? Was he an interior defender? There wasn’t a solid answer. But things changed in a big way in 2020.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh implemented the new Wide-9 scheme into his defense and it worked wonders for Armstead. The 26-year-old was able to shift back to the interior where he had found success as a run defender while still lining up against opposing offensive tackles.

The scheme spread the Niners’ defensive line out and allowed Armstead to be put in more one-on-one situations thus helping him excel as a pass rusher more than the team had ever seen before.

As a result, Armstead established himself as one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL and rewarded the 49ers for their patience. Now, it was the Niners’ turn to reward Armstead.

While there are undoubtedly concerns about paying an injury-prone player with one year of production big money, the situation isn’t that simple. Keeping the defensive line together remained a top priority of the 49ers this offseason and now they’ve done so.

Money is tight and there is already a ton of cap space invested in that position, but Armstead was just worth too much to the team for them to just let them walk.

Perhaps a franchise tag could have been an option, but the Niners decided to reward their star player and that’s not something to complain about.

With an eye on making another Super Bowl run next year, the 49ers are unquestionably a better team with Arik Armstead on defense.

Next: 49ers: Let’s stop the rumors, Jimmy Garoppolo is the guy

A big-time move for a big-time player.

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