Nick Bosa got off to a tremendous start to his NFL career, and it came as no surprise when he was named the 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year. Though the award can be viewed as the culmination of one hell of a rookie season, it also points to an extremely bright future for the former No. 2 overall draft pick.
A quick glance at the list of NFL Defensive Rookies of the Year from the past decade suggests that Bosa is just scratching the surface of his dominance. From Von Miller to Luke Kuechly (retired) to Aaron Donald, his older brother Joey and tackling machine Darius Leonard, it's a who's who of the most impactful defensive players in today's game. One phenomenal defensive player not included on that list is Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, who likely would have won the award in 2017 had he not missed the first four weeks of the season.
Ever since, Garrett has established himself as possibly the most feared defensive player in the league. He has accumulated 23.5 sacks in 26 games over the last two seasons combined, and figures to terrorize the AFC North for many years to come. That became far more certain Monday when NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported that Garrett and the Browns were nearing a historic contract extension, worth $125 million over five years.
Once signed, Garrett would become the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL, and would leapfrog Chicago Bears pass-rusher extraordinaire Khalil Mack to become the highest-paid defensive player in annual average salary in NFL history.
It's definitely a deserved number, though chances are he won't maintain that status as the top AAV salary among defensive players for long. Each year, new deals are struck, eclipsing those of the season before. Jimmy Garoppolo's contract, for instance, once viewed as an albatross no longer ranks among the top 10 salaries at his position.
If there's any one defensive player who should be most excited by Garrett's pending agreement, it's Bosa. He already is among the very best defensive players in the league, and it won't be long until the 49ers lock him up with his own record-setting extension.
Garrett entered the offseason with two years remaining on his rookie contract (counting the fifth-year option), so that can give you an idea of when a Bosa extension might come. Luckily for San Francisco, that's still a couple of offseasons away. His fifth-year option most certainly will be picked up, so based on the timing of Garrett's extension, we can assume Bosa might get his following the 2021 season.
Why is that lucky for San Francisco? Given the certainty of a massive drop in league revenue for the upcoming 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, the salary cap is expected to -- at the very best -- remain flat, with a significant drop far more likely. The recent moves by the Chiefs, signing quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a mind-blowing contract extension and reportedly signing defensive tackle Chris Jones to another huge number -- both of which are considerably backloaded -- suggest that Kansas City expects the salary cap to substantially increase in the near future.
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Assuming he remains healthy, Bosa will get more than Garrett did. Whatever that number is, it would be tremendously tough for the 49ers to fit that into the current salary cap. But a couple years from now, San Francisco very well could have the resources to pay Bosa, as well as a few other key players due for extensions.
The 49ers just missed out on the opportunity to select Garrett in the 2017 NFL Draft. Two years later, they nabbed Bosa, who just might be better and eventually will be paid like it.