49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner is in the middle of a breakout season, and the time remaining on his rookie deal is numbered.
The 49ers can pick up Buckner's fifth-year option this offseason, and keep him under contract through 2021. Buckner and the 49ers can also begin to negotiate a new contract extension as soon as the regular season ends, and the 24-year-old seems to be preparing for that possibility.
#49ers DT DeForest Buckner, who is eligible for a contract extension after 2018 season, said his agent plans to meet with team in offseason.— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) December 20, 2018
DeForest Buckner on possible contract-extension talks with #49ers: "I talked to my agent in the past couple weeks. He’s going to come out in the offseason and we’re going to talk a little more."— Eric Branch (@Eric_Branch) December 20, 2018
#49ers DeForest Buckner is eligible for contract extension at season's end. He's talked in recent weeks with his agent ahead of an upcoming visit about his next deal. "He's going to come out during the offseason and we'll talk a little more." Agents are Joel Segal, Chafie Fields— 𝙲𝚊𝚖 𝙸𝚗𝚖𝚊𝚗 (@CamInman) December 20, 2018
Buckner would appear to be in line for a big raise. His rookie deal was worth just over $18 million over four years. If the 49ers and Buckner to do reach a contract extension, the 49ers can retain him for the 2020 season by picking up the fifth-year option. Because he was a top-10 pick, he would be paid the equivalent of the transition tag. This year, the fifth-year option would have been just over $11.4 million.
His production could warrant more than that, assuming he and the 49ers work out a new deal. The Oregon product has 11 sacks this season -- two more than his first two years combined -- and his 128 career tackles (so far) are the seventh-most by a defensive lineman in the first three years of their career since the stat was first consistently recorded in 1994.
Rams superstar Aaron Donald set the market for interior defensive linemen this offseason, signing a deal worth $50 million guaranteed and as much as $22,500,000 annually. Buckner likely won't see a Donald-sized payday, but with over $64 million in salary-cap space (per Over The Cap) this offseason, the 49ers would certainly be in position to make him one of the highest-paid players at his position.
Whether or not that happens before the 2019 season is kicked off remains to be seen, but Buckner's potential contract figures to be one of the prevailing stories of the 49ers' upcoming offseason.