49ers' DeForest Buckner knows he can improve on breakout season in 2019


49ers' DeForest Buckner knows he can improve on breakout season in 2019

SANTA CLARA — DeForest Buckner met his personal goals for the 2018 season. The defensive tackle is looking forward to what he wants to achieve in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract, and is not concerned about ironing out a new multiyear deal with the 49ers.

At least not yet.

“I’m going to be honest,” Buckner said. “I haven’t really thought too far into it. I’m just focused on the offseason and what I need to do to get better and try to help my team to win.” 

Buckner started in all 16 games and finished with a personal best 12 sacks, the fourth-most by a 49ers defender since 2000. He also recorded 67 tackles, 44 of which were solo and 17 were for a loss. He was very productive disrupting the pocket, hitting opposing quarterbacks 20 times. 

After finishing 2017 with only three sacks, Buckner explained what helped improve his productivity. 

“Finishing,” Buckner said. “Finding that extra step to get to the quarterback, turning those pressures and hits into sacks. I really did a good job the past offseason on working on that, and I’m proud of the season that I put out there. And I can only get better from that.”

Buckner reiterated coach Kyle Shanahan’s message to the team when talking about what he hopes to see from the young members of the defense during the offseason. He urges them to take advantage of their time, in order to avoid the early-season slump that affected the team at the beginning of 2018.

Buckner wants the team to pick back up right where they left off. He also wants to see a vast improvement in the turnover department -- the 49ers had a mere seven takeaways all season. 

“We need to do a better job as a defense attacking the ball,” Buckner said. “This year we caused a lot of fumbles but the ball didn’t bounce our way. It was unfortunate how it happened, we dropped a couple of picks.” 

“So we just have to better job as a defense as a whole, making sure we take advantage of the opportunities that are given to us.” 

[RELATED: DeForest Buckner snubbed from Pro Bowl, and that's ridiculous]

Despite a career-best season, Buckner reflects on 2018 knowing there are still specific ways where he can get better.

“There’s a couple of sacks that I left out there too, where quarterbacks got out of my grasp," Buckner said. "Just got to continue on getting better. How to defeat blocks faster, working on my hands more, footwork, all of that. I just have to work on my technique cleaning it all up and put another season out there like I did this past year.

“I’m pretty satisfied with what I did,” Buckner said. “But I’m still hungry. I know I can do better and I know there’s still sacks that I left out there that I could have got. So it’s back to the grind.” 

Buckner still wouldn’t disclose the number of sacks that was his goal was for 2018. 

“Yeah, I got the number. I’m not going to say, but I got the number.” 

You can assume that number is even higher in 2019.

Frank Gore wants to retire as member of 49ers when NFL career is over

Frank Gore wants to retire as member of 49ers when NFL career is over

Frank Gore isn't ready for the final chapter of his NFL career.

The veteran running back signed a one-year deal with the Buffalo Bills in free agency, and he still thinks he has a lot left in the tank. Once it reaches empty, Gore knows exactly where he wants to be: With the 49ers. 

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"[I was] there 10 years, man," Gore told Damon Bruce on 95.7 The Game on Friday. "They was the ones that gave me the first opportunity to play in the [NFL]. Coming out of college I was injured, and they still gave me the opportunity to get to that level I always wanted to get to as a kid." 

"I started there, and I'm going to finish there. When I'm done, whenever I feel like I'm done, I'm gonna come back and retire as a Niner."

The 49ers drafted Frank Gore in the third round out of the University of Miami in 2005. Gore tore his left ACL twice while with the Hurricanes, and there were questions about his durability. 

Now, Gore is entering his 15th NFL season. With 14,748 rushing yards, he ranks fourth on the league's all-time rushing list. Gore needs just 521 yards to pass Barry Sanders for third.

[RELATED: Sherman's 49ers contract is the real art of the deal]

The Bills will be Gore's third team in the last three seasons, but he will be best remembered for his decade with the 49ers. He rushed for 11,073 yards and 64 touchdowns in 148 games -- each of which is a team record -- with San Francisco. Gore wasn't exactly a compiler, either, as his 74.8 rushing yards per game are the second-most in franchise history. 

His No. 21 is a lock to be retired once he hangs up his cleats, and Gore seems to know that as well as anyone. 

How Richard Sherman's 49ers contract shows off his negotiating skills

How Richard Sherman's 49ers contract shows off his negotiating skills

Richard Sherman was ahead of his time when he negotiated his own incentive-based contract with the 49ers in 2018. 

There was a bit of skepticism directed towards Sherman when he acted as his own agent working out a three-year $27.1 million contract. His contract is heavily incentive based and gave the 49ers an out after the first season if he wasn’t healthy or things didn’t work out. 

The cap hit if the 49ers decided to walk away from Sherman’s contract was only $2 million. If Sherman maxes out his incentives, he could make up to $39.1 million over his three seasons. Sherman bet on himself, which was a risky move coming off of his 2017 season ending Achilles injury. 

Criticism towards Sherman, his contract and the negotiation is misplaced. Looking at 2019, the 49ers worked out several similarly incentive-based contracts with their free agent signings. Sherman actually saved himself money by avoiding paying a percentage to an agent. 

Defensive lineman Dee Ford signed a five-year $85 million contract. When you look more closely at the contract, the team again protected themselves as his salary in his second season is not guaranteed until April 1, 2020. 

Ford has several bonuses built into his contract for workouts, games played and making the Pro Bowl in each season. His contract could be interpreted as a one-year agreement for $19.75 million. 

Linebacker Kwon Alexander’s four-year $54 million contract is also a prove-it based agreement. Like Ford, his salary for his second season with the 49ers is not guaranteed until April 1, 2020. He is coming off a season ending ACL injury and is planning on being ready for the offseason. 

Alexander’s contract is ultimately a one-year $15 million agreement with several bonuses built in just like Ford. 

Running back Tevin Coleman has the same April 1, 2020 trigger in his two-year $8.5 million contact. If he earns all of his bonuses he can earn a maximum of over $10 million. On the other hand, the team can walk away without consequences after the 2019 season with no cap hit. 

Cornerback Jason Verrett’s one-year $3 million contract is only approximately half guaranteed. He has per game roster bonuses that total $1.5 million if he plays in every game. He is coming back from an Achilles injury that occurred on the first day of the 2018 offseason. 

Long snapper Kyle Nelson’s four-year deal may be the safest for the team. None of his salary becomes guaranteed until three days after reinstatement from his suspension. If he does finish out the 2019 season with the 49ers, and the team decides to go another way in 2020, there is no cap hit for the team. 

The April 1, 2020 date built into many of the contracts is important for the team. It gives them more than two weeks of free agency to evaluate their options if they so choose. 

[RELATED: How 49ers' starting lineups look after first wave of free-agent signings]

Sherman not only benefitted by not having to pay an agent, he added specific bonuses into his contract. He receives $1 million for playing 90-percent of the season, $1 million for making the Pro Bowl and an additional $2 million for being named an All Pro. 

It is not yet known if other players have similar additional incentives built into their contracts. Even if they do, the critics of Sherman's negotiating abilities should finally be silenced.