The 49ers shockingly agreed to trade defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for a first-round draft pick Monday, but they reportedly had been trying to trade him for some time.
NFL Media's Ian Rapoport initially reported Monday that the 49ers had "very quietly engaged with several teams about Buckner" before striking a deal with the Colts. Rapoport clarified the timeline later in the day on NFL Network, reporting that San Francisco had been working to trade Buckner since "around the time of the Super Bowl." (H/T 49ers WebZone)
.@RapSheet says deal to trade DeForest Buckner was "in the works for, not just several days, but several weeks."— 49ers Webzone (@49erswebzone) March 16, 2020
The 49ers re-signed defensive lineman Arik Armstead just before news of the Buckner trade broke, reportedly for $4 million per year fewer than the extension Buckner agreed to with the Colts. The salary-cap considerations were especially important, and San Francisco would've faced a tight squeeze under the salary cap this season by re-signing Armstead and paying Buckner the salary he was owed from his fifth-year option.
He didn't publicly admit the 49ers were shopping Buckner, but general manager John Lynch acknowledged multiple times this offseason that San Francisco would have to make hard choices in order to remain a Super Bowl contender.
“We're committed to finding a way to be better,” he said in February. “We'd love to keep everybody. This team is special. There's a special feel to it. We hope that's the case. It's probably not likely, it just doesn't happen in this league.”
The 49ers voted Buckner their most valuable player last season, and the 26-year-old was third on San Francisco with 10.0 regular-season and playoff sacks. He was a key component of San Francisco's NFL-best defensive line, and the 49ers will need to rely on a rotation to replace his production.
Rapoport's reporting indicates that is a reality the 49ers have been contemplating for quite some time.