SANTA CLARA — After Arik Armstead’s breakout season, his NFL future is more uncertain than it has been since entering the draft in 2015.
With no word from his agent or the team, Armstead packed up his belongings on Tuesday not knowing if he would be back in the 49ers' locker room again.
One thing that is certain is that the Sacramento native will get a sizable paycheck after finishing the 2019 season with a team leading 10 sacks, 18 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
“Been here my whole career,” Armstead said. “It would be weird to be somewhere else.”
Armstead did report that he would not be against the idea of being tagged as a franchise player by the club. That would garner him a paycheck somewhere between $15-17 million as a defensive end.
Over his five-year NFL career Armstead struggled to stay healthy and live up to the expectations of a first-round draft pick. He started every game of the past two seasons but really didn’t flourish until Dee Ford and Nick Bosa arrived in Santa Clara in 2019.
“I feel like I’m getting into a groove,” Armstead said. “Just excited to take the next steps in my career, continue to be a better player and try to get back to the Super bowl.”
Armstead understands how special the 49ers’ locker room is, with his own career success mirroring the team’s path with a near-perfect ending in Super Bowl LIV. He would prefer to remain with the club but knows he has no control over his future at the moment.
“I mean I would love being here and trying to go back to the Super Bowl, so however that’s seen or whoever that has to get done,” Armstead said. “It’s not really my decision what they want to do with me, so at that point I’ll make a decision, when everything is laid out on the table.”
The 49ers could conceivably figure out a way to keep Armstead in red and gold but it will take a little bit of fiscal manipulation. Long-term deals for tight end George Kittle and fellow former Oregon teammate defensive lineman DeForest Buckner are also on the to-do list.
Even if Armstead ends up calling another city his home in a few months, he will look back upon his time with the 49ers very fondly.
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“This year was amazing,” Armstead said. “Best year of my career, best team I’ve played on but there’s more to be done, more work to do and somebody’s got to do it. I’m just excited that I’m entering this year and grown as a player and excited for the rest of my career.”
"I’m from Northern California. I would love to be here and continue my career here. I feel like we have a special team that I want to be a part of and try to get back to the Super Bowl.”