How 49ers will try to replace DeForest Buckner along defensive line

How 49ers will try to replace DeForest Buckner along defensive line

The first day of the NFL’s open-negotiating period saw the 49ers part ways with one starting defensive lineman – but not the one who was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.

Arik Armstead is staying. DeForest Buckner is leaving.

Additionally, the 49ers reached a three-year contract agreement Monday night with free safety Jimmie Ward.

General manager John Lynch, coach Kyle Shanahan and chief negotiator Paraag Marathe managed to get all but one of their starting defensive players from a year ago under contract for the 2020 season.

That is a win.

The loss of Buckner will be felt, though. Buckner was traded Monday to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round pick in next month’s draft. The 49ers now own the Nos. 13 and 31 picks in the first round.

Last season, the 49ers relied heavily on Armstead, Buckner and Nick Bosa to play the bulk of the defensive snaps. Buckner, Bosa and Armstead each played at least 75 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.

The 49ers will use a rotation to replace Buckner. One player will not be able to step in and take his place. They also should try to give Armstead and Bosa more rest.

Edge rusher Dee Ford is an important piece of the defense, and the 49ers must limit his snaps to keep him healthy and fresh in order to close out games with his ability to get to the quarterback.

Players such as Solomon Thomas, D.J. Jones, Ronald Blair and, possibly, Kentavius Street and Jullian Taylor could help the 49ers form a rotation on the defensive line to take some of the stress off Armstead and Bosa.

[RELATEDWhy 49ers decided to trade DeForest Buckner, re-sign Arik Armstead]

The 49ers ranked No. 2 in the league in total defense last season and No. 1 in pass defense, thanks in large part to the pass rush generated from the defensive line. The 49ers lost one of their best players, but there should not be a significant defensive drop-off in 2020.

It’s unlikely the 49ers can add a starting-caliber defensive player on the free-agent market. But the organization has flexibility with their two first-round draft picks to add at a position of need, such as cornerback.

49ers defensive lineup

DE: Arik Armstead/Dee Ford
NT: D.J. Jones/Armstead
DT: Solomon Thomas/Jullian Taylor
DE: Nick Bosa/Ronald Blair
LB: Kwon Alexander
LB: Fred Warner
LB: Dre Greenlaw
LCB: Richard Sherman
RCB: Emmanuel Moseley/Ahkello Witherspoon
NB: K’Waun Williams
FS: Jimmie Ward
SS: Jaquiski Tartt

Stephen Jackson insists Colin Kaepernick is owed apology by 'fake' NFL

Stephen Jackson insists Colin Kaepernick is owed apology by 'fake' NFL

On Saturday, five days after George Floyd died while in police custody in Minnesota and with protests raging across the country, the NFL released a statement.

The words from the NFL didn't go over well.

In Twitter-speak, the tweet is getting ratio'd. More than 24,000 replies to just over 4,000 retweets.

NFL players Kenny Stills, Eric Reid, and filmaker Ava DuVernay had strong reactions to the NFL's tweet.

Former Warriors forward Stephen Jackson, who considered Floyd a brother and called him "Twin," did not appreciate the NFL's statement either.

"That's so fake, man," Jackson told The Undefeated's Marc J. Spears on Monday. "It's so fake, it's so fake, it's so fake."

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Jackson believes the league should have apologized to former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the national anthem in 2016 to raise awareness for social injustices.

"Like, why even do it?" Jackson said. "We know it's not real. We know it's not real. You're making yourself look bad. That's one of those situations where they shouldn't even say nothing, bro. They shouldn't even say nothing. ... If anything, they need to apologize to Kaepernick. If they're gonna respond on this type of stuff, start it off with an apology to Kaepernick. Then maybe we'll accept it."

Kaepernick hasn't played in the NFL since 2016. In a column posted by CNN over the weekend, former NFL executive Joe Lockhart said one team official told him they feared losing 20 percent of their season-ticket holders if they signed Kaepernick.

Kaepernick worked out for teams last year, but remains a free agent.

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

How Colton McKivitz earned 49ers' prized 'gold helmet' before NFL draft

How Colton McKivitz earned 49ers' prized 'gold helmet' before NFL draft

When general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan took over the 49ers in 2017, they established an ideal set of criteria for potential draft-eligible prospects. An array of attributes are evaluated, from off-the-field character to football IQ.

49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters recently told The Athletic's Matt Barrows that fifth-round pick Colton McKivitz was one of around 15 potential draftees the team deemed worthy of this "gold helmet" designation.

“Gold helmet is not something we give out a lot,” Peters told Barrows. “The person really has to be exemplary, really has to stand out.”

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

McKivitz is a unique personality to say the least, as his father became famous around the West Virginia campus for wearing various animal skins as hats at every Mountaineer game.

But McKivitz also was a National Honor Society recipient and started 47 of 50 games in his collegiate career, even earning Big 12 Co-Offensive Lineman of the Year honors in 2019.

[RELATED: Trent Williams explains why 49ers were his ideal trade destination]

McKivitz has an aggressive reputation on the field, but his former offensive line coach and family friend says the 49ers couldn't be getting a better all-around person.

“You’re not going to find a better human being as far as moral conduct is concerned,” Brion Schiappa said. “He will never embarrass the 49ers. Ever.”

San Francisco dealt with injuries across the offensive line in 2019, and will be counting on McKivitz's versatility in 2020 for depth.