SANTA CLARA -- In a new scheme and with pending free agency, 49ers defensive lineman Arik Armstead has set himself up to become one of the highest-paid defensive linemen in the NFL.
“He has 10 sacks in a contract year,” 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said on Sunday, following the 49ers’ 37-8 victory over the Green Bay Packers. “The Brinks truck is going to back up for him. Beep, beep.”
Armstead never really found his niche in his first four seasons with the 49ers. He registered nine sacks in his first 46 games. Whether the team was playing a 3-4 or 4-3, Armstead was often shuffled from defensive end to defensive tackle.
After being a first-round pick of the 49ers in 2015, Armstead experienced injuries that limited him to just 14 games in his second and third seasons. This season, he has taken off to lead the 49ers' dominant pass rush.
When asked about Armstead, teammate Jimmie Ward referenced his teammate Kwon Alexander’s favorite word, “Legendary.”
“He’s been kind of on the same track as me over the past few years with a few injuries," Ward said. "This year, he put it all together.”
There is little doubt Armstead has thrived under defensive line coach Kris Kocurek and the team’s aggressive wide-nine alignment. The mindset is to get the quarterback at the snap of the ball, then change course if it is a running play.
“Our style of play, it’s benefitted all of them, but probably him the most, just in terms of never having to kind of read and react,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Just being aggressive every play, going right at the quarterback, reacting to run. With his length and size, just allowing him to be a little bit more decisive and the rest has been him. He’s had no hesitation and he’s stayed healthy.”
Armstead had a hand in three sacks against Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Sunday night. He had one solo sack, sharing two others with DeForest Buckner and Jaquiski Tartt.
Armstead also got pressure on Rodgers on a key third-down play on the first series, enabling linebacker Fred Warner to force a fumble that Nick Bosa recovered at the 2-yard line. Tevin Coleman scored a touchdown on the next play to give the 49ers a 7-0 lead less than two minutes into the game.
The 49ers completely hounded Rodgers, who averaged a career-low 3.2 yards per passing attempt.
“Going into this game we knew that it was going to come down to that,” Armstead said. “To first stop the run and then get after him and put them in bad situations, we were able to do that tonight. I am so proud of my teammates, so proud of everyone especially my D-linemen and the rest of the defense on how we played.”
Armstead is making $9 million this season on the fifth-year option. Whether the 49ers place the franchise tag on him or he receives a multi-year contract, Armstead could be looking at an offseason deal that pays him from $16 million to $20 million.