Just four weeks after the 49ers' brutal blown lead in Super Bowl LIV, management made it clear to DeForest Buckner his future might not be in the Bay Area, despite the defensive tackle turning into a star with the Niners.
The Indianapolis Colts jumped at the chance to add Buckner. When it became clear at the NFL Draft Scouting Combine the defensive tackle was available, they were all-in. Still, Buckner figured his future was as a 49er. He just fell short in the Super Bowl and established himself as a leader for the franchise that drafted him No. 7 overall in 2016.
San Francisco traded Buckner to Indianapolis for the No. 13 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Buckner was set to become a free agent in 2021, and the Colts wasted no time in locking him up long-term. They immediately signed him to a four-year, $84 million contract after the trade.
“I was hoping the 49ers would at least meet me in the middle,” he admits now. “I definitely didn’t expect them to trade me. I poured my heart and soul into that organization … to go from 2-14 my first year to build a culture and get to a Super Bowl?
“You just don’t expect to be traded.”
Buckner had 7.5 sacks, 14 QB hits and nine tackles for loss last season with the 49ers. Through eight games this season as a Colt, he has 2.5 sacks, 13 QB hits and four tackles for loss. The defensive tackle also has an 86.3 Pro Football Focus grade.
The 49ers traded down one spot in the draft and selected Javon Kinlaw No. 14 overall, who seemingly was supposed to replace Buckner. Through nine games, Kinlaw hasn't exactly been dominant. He has three passes defensed but only 19 tackles, one QB hit and hasn't recorded a sack yet. Kinlaw has a lowly 57.4 PFF grade.
Kinlaw still is young, and injuries to Nick Bosa, Solomon Thomas and Dee Ford have hurt him this season. Only time will tell, but until he turns into a star, 49ers fans will question this trade.