The 49ers have known for a while that defensive lineman DeForest Buckner and tight end George Kittle were in line for big-money contract extensions.
And, now, it has become obvious it will take a huge investment to retain defensive lineman Arik Armstead beyond this season.
“What Arik needs to do is keep on playing at that level and he’s going to make his life really easy because a lot of people are going to coveting him, along with us,” general manager John Lynch said on "49ers Game Plan," which airs Saturday at 7 p.m. on NBC Bay Area (Ch. 3).
When the 49ers consider the pros and cons of pursuing a trade to add a veteran player, such as Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey, they must consider the long-term effect of parting ways with a draft pick or two as well as the salary cap implications for adding another big-money contract.
“We talk about not just having success but having sustained success,” Lynch said. “We want to build this thing. Every move we’ve made is with the mindset of being successful now, but we also want this to be sustainable.
“You have to look at long-term planning, which we’re always doing in terms of guys we’re very happy with and their contracts are coming up and we have an opportunity to re-sign and keep them around for a long time. So there’s a ton of planning that goes into it.”
For instance, if the 49ers were to entertain a trade for Ramsey or Washington offensive tackle Trent Williams, the club would consider more than how the player would fit in with the current roster. The 49ers already have gauged the long-term impact of losing the draft selections, as well as signing an established veteran to a long-term extension that would make him one of the team’s highest-paid players.
The 49ers currently are $26.8 million under the NFL’s salary cap, according to figures from the NFL Players Association. Unused cap room rolls over from one year to the next.
Buckner is scheduled to earn more than $14 million in 2020 on the fifth-year option – the final year of his contract. The 49ers are eligible to negotiate a contract extension with Kittle after this season, which is the third year of his original four-year contract.
“Those guys are pretty obvious, in terms of what they bring on the field, in terms of who they are as people,” Lynch said. “They check all the boxes. Those are guys who are extremely important to us.”
Armstead is moving himself into that category, too.
Armstead is scheduled for unrestricted free agency after this season, as he plays on the fifth-year option at more than $9 million. Armstead has gotten off to his best start with two sacks in the team’s first three games.
“What I love about Arik, he’s playing like the guy he was capable of being and playing with a tremendous amount of vigor, intensity, power,” Lynch said.
”I think he really meshes well with what (first-year 49ers defensive line coach) Kris Kocurek has brought in terms of mentality and how we want to play. And it’s all falling into place with him.”