Buckner still wonders if 49ers deal could have worked despite cap


While 49ers fans are still in somewhere in the grieving process, DeForest Buckner can now look back at March 16, 2020 with acceptance. 

It’s been over a year and a half since the No. 7 overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft officially became a member of the Indianapolis Colts. It wasn’t what Buckner wanted or ever saw as his future, believing he would stay in the Bay Area for his entire professional career. 

After having been named an All-Pro in 2020, and welcoming his second child into the world, Buckner has clearly adjusted and flourished in his new surroundings. Still, in the back of his mind, he will always wonder if somehow, someway he could have kept wearing red and gold. 

With other teams like the Los Angeles Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers seemingly operating without the restrictions of the salary cap, Jimmie Ward wondered earlier this week why the 49ers couldn’t do the same thing for his former teammate. Buckner had very similar thoughts. 

“Initially I was like man, the Chiefs did it after winning the Super Bowl.” Buckner said on Wednesday via conference call. “Tampa Bay did it. Like Jimmie said, the Rams did it. Essentially people put the effort to find the way and I know sometimes some guys don’t and it just doesn’t go your way.”  

Buckner was informed out about a week before the trade that shocked the Bay Area that his agent should start looking for a trade partner. At the time, despite knowing it was just the business part of the NFL, the choice still didn't sting any less. 


Having grown up in Hawaii and attending the University of Oregon prior to his four seasons with the 49ers, Buckner knew moving to the Midwest was going to be an adjustment. With quite a few more hoodies and jackets in his wardrobe, he has found a place where he feels appreciated for his talent and effort made both on and off the field. 

"These are the cards I was dealt,” Buckner said. “Honestly, the move, the trade, for the past year and a half I felt like I grew. It made me step out of my comfort zone in a lot of ways. It helped me grow as a man, as a player, as a teammate, as a father, as a husband and a leader.”

RELATED: Buckner learned harsh business realities with 49ers trade

Buckner’s growth came not only from wanting to prove to the 49ers that they missed out on an opportunity by letting him go, but to the Colts that he was worthy of his four-year $84 million contract. 

“In the moment when you told me when it was official when I got traded the feelings I was feeling, if you told me I was going to feel this way a year and a half later, I would have said you were crazy,” Buckner said. “But, everything happens for a reason. The Lord put me here for a reason and I’m very happy for the decisions that were made.”  

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