Arik Armstead was by far one of the best defensive players on the 49ers roster in 2019. A first-round pick in 2015 under Jim Tomsula, Armstead has been around for the 49ers struggles over the first 4 years of his career. In his 5th year, Armstead was a major contributor to the resurrection of the 49ers into a championship caliber defense.

Prior to this season the 49ers picked up Armstead's 5th year option on his rookie contract. Despite how well he played this season, if you turned back the clock to last off-season not everyone thought that was a wise decision. At his very best, Armstead was a good player. The 49ers struggled to find a fit for Armstead as he moved all around the line in his first 4 years, never tallying more than 3 sacks in a single season. In fact, in Armstead's first 4 seasons he only registered 9 sacks, in 2019, his contract year, he registered 10 in the regular season and 2 in the playoffs.

Arik Armstead is the biggest question mark of the 49ers 2020 off-season. Has he finally unlocked his potential, or was he a product of playing next to great pass rushers that funneled quarterbacks into his arms? The 49ers will have to answer that question very shortly.

2019 Performance


Armstead chose the perfect time to have a breakout year. During the final season of his rookie contract Armstead set career-high marks in almost every category that determines success along the defensive line. Armstead registered 10 sacks, 54 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 3 passes defended. Each of these stats were the highest Armstead has ever recorded in a single season. Armstead wasn't only a box score bruiser either, according to Pro Football Focus, Armstead graded out at an impressive 89.8 on the season, a full 10 points higher than his previous high in 2015 (78.1). PFF's grade puts him in the same category as players like New Orleans' Cameron Jordan (87.6), Pittsburgh's TJ Watt (91.3) and LA's Joey Bosa (89.6). It is quite clear, in 2019 Arik Armstead was one of the best edge defenders in the game.

2020 Cost


This is where it gets difficult. No matter how well Armstead performed in 2019, he is an unrestricted free-agent going into 2020. Armstead is going to be seeking a large, long-term contract coming off a banner year. He has gone on record stating he would return to San Francisco on a one year franchise tag. This may sound enticing to keep the band together but that number would equal a 1-year, $19 million guaranteed contract. The 49ers are currently $13 million below the salary cap.

Future Outlook


Armstead will not be on the 49ers in 2020. He had a very good season, but prior to this season he was a mediocre player. His sudden emergence happened once the 49ers acquired 2 legitimate pass-rushers (Dee Ford & Nick Bosa) and this calls the legitimacy of his big year into question. One stat can tell a compelling story, and in this case, it tells the whole story of Arik Armstead. Dee Ford played in 13 total games (10 regular season, 3 playoff) with the 49ers during the regular season and in those games Armstead registered 10 sacks. During the 6 games in which Ford was unavailable, Armstead recorded only 2 sacks. The 49ers would be foolish to over-invest in someone whose production seems to be related so closely to the performance of his stellar teammates.

This doesn't mean the 49ers should simply let Armstead walk. The front office must do its due diligence to understand what market is out there for Armstead. From there it would be wise to either franchise tag or transition tag him and trade him to whoever offers up the best deal. If this team wants to contend deep into the future it can't be desperate to mimic the success of the 2019 season.



Next: No. 11 Mike McGlinchey
  • Written by:
    36 year old husband & father of 4, life-long 49ers fan living in Hudson Valley New York.