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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Arik Armstead projected to cost 49ers nearly $18 million if franchised

Dec 12, 2019 at 11:34 AM--

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Joel Corry of CBS Sports released an early position-by-position look at the cost of the 2020 franchise tags. This information is significant for all NFL teams, with the San Francisco 49ers not being an exception.

Once the season is done, the 49ers will need to decide what to do with Arik Armstead, who is playing on his fifth-year option and having his most productive NFL season. The offseason addition of defensive line coach Kris Kocurek seems to have rejuvenated Armstead and his NFL career. It also doesn't hurt that rookie defensive end Nick Bosa is demanding a lot of attention this season from opposing offensive lines.

Armstead has racked up a team-leading 10 sacks this season to go along with his 46 tackles and two forced fumbles. To put that into perspective, the defensive lineman accumulated nine sacks in his previous four NFL seasons combined. He is scheduled to become a free agent.

So the question is what to do for Armstead, should San Francisco decide to keep him around. Do they offer him a multi-year contract after one impressive season with a mega-deal for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner on the horizon or utilize the franchise tag? If the choice is the latter, then the question of cost comes into play.

Armstead has played along the edge and interior of the defensive line. That matters because a defensive tackle could earn about $16.272 million on a one-year franchise deal next year, according to Corry. A defensive end could earn more, with Corry listing a price tag of $17.95 million.

Armstead will earn the larger of the two numbers if tagged because he has played more — significantly more, according to Pro Football Focus — snaps at defensive end.

These numbers are, of course, estimates since they can't be finalized until the 2020 salary cap is set early next year, which could reach $200 million per franchise.

"Arik has been tremendous for us this year," general manager John Lynch said in September. "Arik's going to make a lot of money, whether it's with us or somebody else. He's playing really well and bringing a lot to the table. So we're glad we have him, and we're going to work hard to try to keep him, but you can only sign so many. So we'll see where that goes."

The 49ers have several other players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents, including names like wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, safety Jimmie Ward, and defensive linemen Ronald Blair and Sheldon Day. Of the names about to hit the open market, it seems like Armstead has emerged as the most likely candidate to be franchised, should the team wish to utilize the option.

"He's playing legitimate All-Pro football week in and week out, whether it's primetime games or games nobody's watching," cornerback Richard Sherman said in November after Armstead had a two-sack performance against the Green Bay Packers. "He's out there making an incredible impact. He's putting guards into the quarterback's lap, tackles into the quarterback's lap, tight ends, whoever. Everybody can get it. He's the 'can man.' Anybody 'can' get it. Whoever lines up in front of Arik Armstead is going to have a long day.

"I think they said he's at 10 sacks now on a contract year. I mean, the Brinks truck is going to back up. Beep, beep. I can't wait. I'm excited for him, but hopefully, he gets the credit he deserves."

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