How 49ers, Colts' differing motivations led to DeForest Buckner trade

How 49ers, Colts' differing motivations led to DeForest Buckner trade

One week ago, the Indianapolis Colts didn't have a single quarterback on their roster signed beyond the upcoming 2020 season.

A week later, that remains the case.

You don't often see QB-needy teams that are scheduled to pick in the top half of the first round of the NFL draft -- like the Colts were -- trade that highly-valued asset for a non-quarterback veteran. Even less often do you see that still QB-needy team then sign that non-QB to a massive contract extension, thereby taking up a large chunk of the salary cap space that could otherwise have been used to address the most important position on the field.

But that's exactly what Indianapolis did in trading the No. 13 overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft to the 49ers in exchange for defensive lineman DeForest Buckner last week. In completing the trade, the Colts signed Buckner to a four-year, $84 million extension.

The following day, Indianapolis signed veteran quarterback Philip Rivers to a one-year, $25 million contract in free agency. Between Rivers, 38, and holdovers Jacoby Brissett and Chad Kelly, the Colts are spending more on the quarterback position ($47.125 million) than any other team this coming season -- and still don't have a single QB signed beyond it.

So, what exactly was Indianapolis' logic? There is a combination of factors, but ultimately it boils down to: The Colts don't think they're that far off.

After being blindsided by Andrew Luck's retirement just prior to the start of last season, Indianapolis actually got off to a 5-2 start before stumbling down the stretch. The Colts ultimately finished 7-9 and fell short of the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. Two teams they beat -- the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans -- met in the AFC Championship Game, with the Chiefs going on to prevail over San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV.

The Colts are well aware that they'll be dealing with Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes for many, many years to come, and according to The Athletic's Zak Keefer, they view Buckner -- who had 1.5 sacks and three hits on Mahomes in the Super Bowl -- as a necessary counter weapon, due to his proficiency as an internal rusher.

"And don’t think for a second Mahomes and [Texans quarterback Deshaun] Watson didn’t factor into this trade," Keefer wrote. "[Colts general manager Chris] Ballard knows the QBs in the AFC his team will have to face in the coming years, how dangerous they are in and out of the pocket and the quickest way to corral them: with pressure straight up the middle. That’s precisely how Buckner got a solo sack on Mahomes in the Super Bowl. That’s why the Colts brought him to Indy."

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To acquire a player of Buckner's caliber on the open market, Indianapolis reportedly figured the 49ers would ask for first- and second-round draft picks in return. So, the cost of directly dealing with San Francisco seemed far more appealing. Yes, it was the No. 13 overall selection, but one could argue the 49ers value that pick more highly than the Colts do. With Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert -- the top three QB prospects -- all expected to get picked before the No. 13 overall selection, the chances were slim that Indianapolis was going to find its gunslinger of the future at that spot.

In acquiring Buckner and Rivers -- and the money spent to do so -- the Colts essentially are risking their long-term future for a chance at immediate contention. Ironically, one might characterize the 49ers' logic as the opposite.

NFL rumors: Rams trading Brandin Cooks to Texans for second-round draft pick

NFL rumors: Rams trading Brandin Cooks to Texans for second-round draft pick

The Los Angeles Rams' rebuild continues.

After releasing former All-Pros Todd Gurley and Clay Matthews during free agency, the Rams continued their roster overhaul by reportedly agreeing to send wideout Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans in exchange for several draft picks, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported Thursday, citing a source.

LA has been dealing with salary cap issues, trying to find money to pay franchise quarterback Jared Goff, all-world defensive lineman Aaron Donald, defensive back Jalen Ramsey and the other 49 players needed to fill out an NFL roster.

The team still ends up taking a dead cap hit on Cooks in 2020, but at least removes the remaining four years of his deal from the books.

With the departure of offensive weapons Gurley and Cooks along with Matthews’ defensive presence, it will be a very different LA attack the next time the team takes on the 49ers.

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After four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Cooks struggled through injuries and inconsistency on his way to just 583 receiving yards in 14 games during the 2019 season.

ProFootballTalk reported Thursday that the team already took a financial hit by holding onto Cooks this far into his contract.

With the 49ers aiming to defend their title as NFC champions, the Seattle Seahawks remaining strong and the Arizona Cardinals fleecing Bill O’Brien and those head-scratching Texans for DeAndre Hopkins earlier this spring, there’s a clear new team at the bottom of the NFC West.

If we end up getting an NFL season in 2020, expect the division’s doormat to be in Tinseltown.

NFL Draft 2020: Why 49ers could trade up to No. 5 for Jeffrey Okudah

NFL Draft 2020: Why 49ers could trade up to No. 5 for Jeffrey Okudah

The NFL draft demonstrates to fans just how bold their team’s general managers can be.

Those willing to take a risk and try to move up in the first round sacrifice significant draft capital in exchange for a chance at a home run.

The 49ers happen to be one of those select few teams possessing multiple first-round picks in this year’s draft, giving GM John Lynch an opportunity to make a big splash.

One potential way Lynch could extend San Francisco’s championship window is by fortifying the secondary with Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah, writes Bleacher Report’s Marcus Mosher.

In this trade, the 49ers make the bold jump up to secure the former Ohio State Buckeye. But with the 49ers lacking in trade capital this year, they could send picks No. 13, No. 31 and another 2021 third-round selection. 

The 49ers have a win-now roster and could use a stud cover man to pair with Richard Sherman. Okudah is one of the best players in the draft and would give the team another versatile corner who could be used in both man and zone coverage. 

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Okudah is the consensus top defensive back in this year’s draft, combining length to disrupt the passing game with top-line speed, putting up a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The Niners came up just short of hoisting the Lombardi trophy in February, despite holding dynamic gunslinger Patrick Mahomes to just 286 yards passing and the lowest postseason quarterback rating of his career.

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Okudah could provide an immediate impact in the secondary on the other side of Richard Sherman, but should the team sacrifice both of its first-round draft picks to fortify a position that is lower on the list of needs for Lynch’s roster?

Many fans likely rather would see the team grab one of this year's seemingly endless crop of talented wide receivers at No. 13 and then waiting and nabbing a cornerback later like TCU product Jeff Gladney at No. 31 overall.

We’ll find out just how bold this 49ers' front office wants to be in exactly two week’s time.