Shanahan reflects on 49ers trading Buckner to the Colts

Kyle Shanahan DeForest Buckner

As the 49ers look to get back to .500 when they face the Indianapolis Colts at Levi's Stadium, a DeForest Buckner-sized shadow has been cast over the contest. Sunday night marks the first time the 49ers have faced their former star defensive lineman since trading him in March of 2020.

On Wednesday, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan was asked about the trade that is back in every outlet's news cycle. 

“Yeah, I miss Buck a lot," Shanahan said. "I knew we would and that was a very tough decision, not one that we wanted to do. One that going through all the situations, looking at the money, the contract of the salary, the salary cap that year, we just came off a big season with how well our defense played and we had a number of guys that were up that year as unrestricted free agents."

The 49ers traded Buckner just over a month after playing in the Super Bowl. Buckner was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2018 when he recorded a career-high 12 sacks, and he followed that up by recording 7.5 his final season in Santa Clara. 

Buckner said Wednesday that he tried to meet in the middle with the 49ers when figuring out a new contract, but the team didn't offer close what the Colts did following the trade. Indianapolis immediately locked up Buckner for five years at $21 million per season. The same day the 49ers traded Buckner, they signed fellow defensive tackle Arik Armstead to a five-year, $85 million deal. 


While other teams like the Los Angeles Rams find ways to maneuver around the salary cap, Buckner was hoping the 49ers could do the same for him. 

"It wasn't something we were high-fiving or anything over after it happened," Shanahan said. "It came down to, ‘Do you want to pay this amount of money to one guy or do you want to keep two of the guys you already have that you will lose and plus add a 13th pick in the draft?’

"So, it had nothing to do with not valuing Buck or anything like that. It was the situation of that year and that we didn't want to lose two players and a 13th pick in the draft. So, a tough decision we had to make.”

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Buckner learned the cruel business of the NFL, and the 49ers saw their former first-round pick be named an All-Pro his first season with the Colts.

The 49ers received the No. 13 pick in the 2020 draft in exchange for Buckner, which they used on defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw. The South Carolina product had 33 tackles and 1.5 sacks over 14 games as a rookie last season. A lingering knee issue has held him to four games and limited playing time so far this year.

Now, the 49ers face their old friend as they field questions on a major move that could have lasting implications.

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