SANTA CLARA -- Jimmie Ward has been pondering a topic that fans also have questioned: Why couldn’t the 49ers have found a way to keep DeForest Buckner?
There is the obvious argument that in place of the Indianapolis Colts' All-Pro defensive tackle, the 49ers were able to draft Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk. There were also the financial implications of what it would mean to keep Buckner alongside longtime teammate Arik Armstead, both of whom were in line for sizable contract extensions.
While Ward understands the business side of the NFL, he posed a legitimate question when speaking to media on Monday afternoon.
“Couldn’t keep everyone,” Ward said. “Well, maybe. I don’t know. Probably could have made it work somehow. The Rams keep doing it. I don’t know how. You know where they’re getting all this money from? But I don’t know. It’s the business side of it.”
The 49ers will host Buckner and the Colts at Levi’s Stadium in Week 7 for the first time since the former Oregon Duck was traded on March 16, 2020. The trade came as a surprise to nearly everyone outside of 49ers headquarters and many inside the building as well.
The loss of one of the 49ers' key leaders was strongly felt in the locker room and on the field. In his first season on Indianapolis, Buckner was voted First Team All-Pro, registering 9.5 sacks, 58 total tackles and 26 quarterback hits.
Both Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have spoken at length about how challenging the decision was to trade the No. 7 overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft. Buckner had become a pillar in the locker room while also missing only one game in his four seasons with the club.
“Buck is a unique player,” Ward said. “You can’t find another Buck. You just got to find another Kinlaw, you got to find another D.J. Jones, you got to find another Kevin [Givens]. Those guys just got to work on their craft. I feel like they are doing really great.
“Buck was unique in some of the stuff he did, how aggressive he was and his mindset. The players we got now, they’re the same type of player but they are them. Can’t be Buck. He’s a totally different person. He thinks different, he’s built different. I feel like John and Kyle did a great job in replacing him, but at the end of the day, he’s still Buck.”