49ers' Arik Armstead primed for lucrative payday amid breakout season


49ers' Arik Armstead primed for lucrative payday amid breakout season

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.

[RELATED: Grading 49ers' offense, defense in blowout win vs. Packers]

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.

NFLPA votes to recommend no preseason games for 49ers, 31 other teams

NFLPA votes to recommend no preseason games for 49ers, 31 other teams

Will we be seeing any 49ers preseason games in 2020?

The NFL Players' Association doesn't want to participate, as it voted unanimously to recommend there be no preseason games this season in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

As ESPN's Dan Graziano notes above, the NFL reportedly wants to cut the preseason in half by eliminating Weeks 1 and 4. If that ends up being the case, the 49ers will open the 2020 preseason against the Raiders at Levi's Stadium on Aug. 21.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Apprehension on the part of the players is understandable given the ongoing off-the-field issues playing out across the country. Cases of the novel coronavirus have spiked around the nation as states began reopening, with many opting to reverse course and pause the process, including in California.

There is palpable risk for anyone going back to work or traveling across state lines, especially with how many individual people are necessary to the operation of even a preseason NFL game, with or without fans.

[RELATED: NFL rumors: 49ers' Raheem Mostert requested pay raise this offseason]

However, players on the bubble of rosters benefit greatly from the opportunities afforded to them in preseason games, as starting lineups rarely get more than a quarter of action -- if that -- in three out of the four games.

Losing two preseason games or even four will be a detriment to those players fighting for roster spots, but clearly the health and safety of players, coaches and all the other staff involved in an NFL gameday should take precedent.

49ers' Kendrick Bourne 'likes' tweet about David Njoku trade rumors

49ers' Kendrick Bourne 'likes' tweet about David Njoku trade rumors

Kendrick Bourne just wants to see the 49ers offense be the best that it can be.

After NBC Sports Bay Area's Brian Witt published a story Friday arguing that San Francisco should make a trade and pair Njoku with All-Pro tight end George Kittle, Bourne was one of the hundreds who "liked" the tweet (screenshot H/T Brian Witt).

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Njoku requested a trade from the Cleveland Browns on Friday, his agent confirmed to ESPN's Adam Schefter. His frustration likely comes from Cleveland's decision to sign tight end Austin Hooper to what currently is the largest salary at the position (Kittle is expected to change that) and that the Browns selected a tight end in the fourth round of this year's NFL draft (Florida Atlantic's Harrison Bryant).

Njoku has one more season remaining on his initial rookie contract. Cleveland already has exercised his fifth-year option for 2021, when he'll make just over $6 million in base salary.

[RELATED: Tom Brady's Joe Montana, Jimmy Garoppolo connection made him 49ers villain]

Kittle's contract situation likely will keep the 49ers from making any major investments for the time being, as the tight end's new deal is expected to reset the free-agent market at the position.

The Browns' reported asking price of a first-round pick would make this a quick conversation for general manager John Lynch, who hasn't shown much willingness to part with any high draft picks in years past.

Nevertheless, fans will continue to clamor for anyone who can help make coach Kyle Shanahan's offense one of the NFL's best.