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49ers allowing Arik Armstead to leave was a ‘tough’ decision

Mar 27, 2024 at 4:38 PM


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Arik Armstead was the longest-tenured member of the San Francisco 49ers, joining the team as a first-round draft pick two years before head coach Kyle Shanahan's tenure began. Despite the team's efforts to retain him by negotiating a restructured contract, they ultimately released the veteran defensive lineman when no agreement was reached.

"It was real tough," Shanahan said this week about the situation. "I mean, we've been with Arik since we've been here, and I know he was here a couple of years before us, so it wasn't something we really wanted to happen. It's one of the tough things when trying to keep a team together, and just where it goes with the salary cap and stuff."

Betting on himself, Armstead wanted to test free agency to see if anyone would be willing to pay more. Several teams were interested, with the Jacksonville Jaguars finally winning the bidding.

Shanahan added, "Real happy for him where it ended up, but I hated to see him go."

Armstead struggled to stay healthy in recent years, missing 13 games over the past two seasons. He finished his 2023 campaign with 27 tackles and five sacks, adding one more quarterback takedown in the Super Bowl.

The 49ers wanted to do good by Armstead, a fixture inside the building for nearly a decade. Management tried to be honest with the longtime player, acknowledging a desire to keep him around but making it clear that there were some financial hurdles to get past.

"He was willing to work with us, and we had a good conversation with Arik," CEO Jed York said of the discussions with the defensive lineman. "He just asked if he could test what his market value was, and he knew what we offered him. And I think he was appreciative that we did it in a way that gave him the opportunity to test the market and see.

"And for a guy that's played nine years for the club and has done amazing things on the field, off the field, it's a lot easier for us to work with him where I don't want to see him go somewhere else, but he was able to see what his value was. And I think we owed him the opportunity to do that, and we gave him that respect."

General manager John Lynch echoed the sentiment, acknowledging the difficulty of the decision. The 49ers have handed out several massive deals in recent years to players they have drafted during the Lynch and Shanahan era. It was George Kittle in 2020, Fred Warner in 2021, Deebo Samuel in 2022, and Nick Bosa in 2023.

"Some realities come to bear that you can't keep everybody, and so you have to make some tough judgments," Lynch said this week. "And we worked with Arik, and really appreciative of he and his family and representative of trying to work something out with a restructured contract. [We] took a couple different whacks at different ideas.

"And ultimately, he wanted to go see what his value [was], and good for him, because it was robust. I mean, you saw what he got in Jacksonville. So he bet on himself, and good for Arik."

Ultimately, it came down to the numbers. It came down to Armstead's salary cap hit versus his availability in recent years.

"But we just made a decision, and part of it was he had missed some games," Lynch continued. "That happens. But at his number, we had to adjust it, and we made that trade for [DT] Maliek [Collins], and so we wish Arik nothing but the best.

"Those are tough decisions. Arik's done so much for our team. He's such a fabric of who we are as a team, the work he does, and the community. ... But ultimately, he chose to bet on himself, and I think he made a good call because his market was there."
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