49ers' Arik Armstead Was 'Confused' by DeForest Buckner Trade to Colts

Megan ArmstrongSenior Analyst IIApril 12, 2020

FILE - In this Jan. 11, 2020, file photo, San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead, left, and defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (99) react to a play against the Minnesota Vikings during the first half of an NFL divisional playoff football game in Santa Clara, Calif. The defending NFC champion 49ers signed Armstead to a five-year contract worth up to $85 million on Monday, March 16, 2020, to keep him off the open market and then immediately agreed to a deal to send Buckner to Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, File)
Tony Avelar/Associated Press

The San Francisco 49ers traded defensive lineman DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for the Colts' 2020 first-round selection last month.

The move caught many by surprise, including fellow Niners defensive lineman Arik Armstead. The 26-year-old disclosed his reaction to KNBR 680's Papa and Lund show on Thursday (h/t NBC Sports' Ali Thanawalla):

"It was a shock. You know, I was confused and I didn't really expect that. Super excited and happy for him. Me and him actually have been working out for a few weeks now, so we've been able to hang out and talk about it. God works in mysterious ways and we both believe things happen for a reason. It's going to be weird not playing alongside each other anymore like we have done for about eight years, but I know he's going to do amazing things up there with the Colts. I'm super happy for him."


Now chasing QBs for the @Colts... @DeForestBuckner! 😤 https://t.co/9ftwVDapSR

Armstead added that he heard about Buckner's trade after he had agreed to re-sign in San Francisco on a five-year, $85 million extension.

Armstead and Buckner were teammates at Oregon from 2012 to '14 before being reunited in San Francisco. The organization took Armstead 17th overall in the 2015 NFL draft and then took Buckner seventh overall in 2016.

The 49ers seemingly had to choose just one to move forward with from a financial standpoint:

Akash Anavarathan @akashanav

#Colts’ DeForest Buckner’s deal: 4 years, $84M, $56.4M guaranteed #49ers’ Arik Armstead’s deal: 5 years, $85M, $45.9M guaranteed The savings in the contract + the first round pick makes it worth it for SF.

Armstead led the Niners last regular season with 10 sacks, and Buckner was the third on the team with 7.5. The latter led the team in 2018 with a career-high 12 sacks across 16 regular-season starts.

Overall, Buckner recorded 28.5 sacks, 11 passes defended, three forced fumbles and 263 tackles (166 solo) across 63 regular-season games in San Francisco.


DeForest Buckner trade was a fantastic move by 49ers https://t.co/dEQ26UGx55

Colts general manager Chris Ballard explained the front office's thinking to Andrew Walker of the team's official website:

"When you have an opportunity to acquire what you think is an elite player at a premium position, who's just turning 26 years old, still has three-plus years of high-level play, who's a unique, physical talent — plus a unique individual in terms of his character — we thought it was a great move for us. You know, most of the time when you acquire elite players they're usually on the down side of their careers; you don't get an opportunity to get them. And if it happens in free agency there's usually a reason they're hitting the market.

"So we just saw a unique opportunity. The 13th pick was a lot, but we think his play, both on the field and what he's going to bring to the locker room, warranted the 13th pick of the draft."

Indianapolis is all-in on contending next season with the one-year signing of 38-year-old quarterback Philip Rivers. Buckner will help bolster a defense that already boasted veteran All-Pro pass-rusher Justin Houston along the line and 2018 Defensive Rookie of the Year Darius Leonard at linebacker.

The Colts ranked seventh in rushing defense, 16th in total defense and 23rd in passing defense in 2019 en route to finishing 7-9.