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49ers' Arik Armstead has main goal of becoming NFL's top run defender

49ers' Arik Armstead has main goal of becoming NFL's top run defender

Arik Armstead turned a breakout season into a lucrative contract extension with the 49ers, but the defensive lineman isn't resting on his laurels after the big payoff. In fact, he's going about things as if its business as usual.

On Wednesday, Armstead took to Instagram to inform his followers of his main goal for the upcoming season. As it turns out, it's the same one he always has -- including last season when he recorded a career-high 10 sacks.

"My goal every year is to be the best run defender in the league first," Armstead wrote. "That's the hard part. You can have a dominant impact on the game without getting a sack. It may not come with glory, but for me that’s what I take pride in. If I dominated the run game I can walk off the field happy. It’s hard, but don’t go into a game stressing to get a sack. Worry about being physically dominant and you will put your team in better situations on 3rd down and sacks will come."

One could argue that Armstead's breakout campaign was partially the result of playing alongside DeForest Buckner. With Buckner having been traded to the Indianapolis Colts last week, however, San Francisco has a big void to fill at the three-technique, and although that's not the position Armstead played last season, he would appear capable of doing so. While his pass-rush grade was slightly better than Buckner's last year, Armstead's run defense grade was significantly superior.

With the three-technique serving as the fulcrum of the defensive line's efforts to stop the run, it's a positive sign that Armstead is dedicating himself to being even more of a standout in that department, particularly if that's where he ends up playing. With Nick Bosa and Dee Ford applying pressure from the edges, the 49ers have the talent to afford to move Armstead further inside, if that's the direction they choose to go. That said, he accumulated double-digit sacks while being one of the best run-stuffers in the NFL from a combo position last season, so San Francisco might prefer to keep him where he has proven to be so effective.

[RELATED: Report: 49ers went after Suh, who's going to Bucs instead]

Either way, with Buckner gone, the 49ers likely will need improvement across the board if the defensive line is going to be as dominant as it was last season. Even with a new, hefty contract, Armstead appears to be taking that to heart.

Anthony Zettel leaves 49ers, signs with Vikings in NFL free agency

Anthony Zettel leaves 49ers, signs with Vikings in NFL free agency

Defensive lineman Anthony Zettel, a late-season pickup for the 49ers, agreed to terms Wednesday with the Minnesota Vikings, the team announced.

The 49ers signed Zettel on Dec. 23 after experiencing depth issues on the team’s defensive line. San Francisco released Jeremiah Valoaga, who played in four games for the 49ers, to make room for Zettel.

Zettel saw action in the 49ers’ final regular-season game, then played a backup role in each of the team’s three postseason games. Zettel played 15 snaps on defense and 13 plays on special teams in the 49ers’ 31-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.

The 49ers signed Zettel as a free agent on Dec. 23, a week after the Cincinnati Bengals released him. Zettel played for 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek when they were both with the Detroit Lions.

The 49ers also lost backup nose tackle Sheldon Day on Wednesday, as he signed with the Indianapolis Colts.

[RELATEDReport: 49ers went after Suh, who's going to Bucs instead]

The 49ers announced the official signing of defensive lineman Kerry Hyder on Wednesday. Hyder played with the Dallas Cowboys last season. His best season came in 2016 when he registered eight sacks with the Lions with Kocurek as his position coach.

Why PFF loved 49ers' DeForest Buckner trade for first-round draft pick

Why PFF loved 49ers' DeForest Buckner trade for first-round draft pick

The news was shocking at the time. Hours after agreeing to a five-year, $85 million contract with Arik Armstead, the 49ers traded DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. 

Buckner was voted as the team MVP last season. He is regarded as a better player than Armstead and seemed in line for a huge payday. Well, that payday came, but from the Colts instead of the 49ers. Indianapolis signed Buckner to a four-year, $84 million contract extension upon agreeing to the trade. 

While many 49ers fans shook their head at losing Buckner, analytics site Pro Football Focus loved the deal for San Francisco.

"With Emmanuel Sanders departing, the Niners are now in the market for a wide receiver, and by trading for Indy’s 13th overall pick, they are in a prime location to snag one of the elite receiving prospects in Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb or Henry Ruggs III," PFF writes.

In our latest mock draft between myself and Josh Schrock, the 49ers select Ruggs at No. 13 overall with Lamb and Jeudy both off the board. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. gave them Jeudy in his most recent mock draft after the first week of free agency.

All three of Lamb, Jeudy and Ruggs rank in PFF's top-10 draft prospects this year. The 49ers need a No. 1 receiver to complement Deebo Samuel and now are in prime position to do so through the draft on a cheap contract.

[RELATED: 49ers, Colts approached Buckner trade with opposite logic]

General manager John Lynch saved money he now can use on a George Kittle extension and didn't have to hand top dollars to Buckner, which PFF believes is way too much for a defensive tackle not named Aaron Donald. Coach Kyle Shanahan surely will miss Buckner, but has to be smiling at the thought of adding a young star as a weapon for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. 

The 49ers' biggest strength took a hit by losing Buckner. One of their biggest weaknesses, however, soon could receive a significant upgrade.