49ers trying to tag then trade Arik Armstead in 2020?

Arik Armstead #91 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Arik Armstead #91 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers don’t have a lot of cap space or NFL Draft picks entering 2020, so tagging and trading defensive end Arik Armstead makes some sense. But does it happen?

The San Francisco 49ers currently have $14,696,899 in salary cap space this offseason, according to Over the Cap. Additionally, the Niners own just one pick, No. 31 overall, in the first four rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft after making moves last season for EDGE Dee Ford and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

While San Francisco doesn’t have a ton of offseason needs, general manager John Lynch faces some tough decisions.

Sanders, defensive back Jimmie Ward and defensive end Arik Armstead are all poised to hit free agency this offseason. And out of that trio, only Armstead seems to be commanding interest from the 49ers on a new deal, according to ESPN’s Josina Anderson.

It makes sense in a lot of ways. Armstead finally lived up to his first-round draft billing, picking up a team-high 10 sacks last season and performing well among a talent-laden defensive line. Considering the Niners D-line is arguably the best unit the team has entering 2020, it makes sense Lynch and Co. want to keep this unit together.

If a new deal with Armstead can’t be reached, though, the franchise tag is an option. Yet that will likely cost San Francisco something in the neighborhood of $17 million this upcoming season.

All one has to do is look at the cap space figure to know that’ll be tough.

Yet there are some other ideas the Niners could potentially be considering. One of them was proposed by Bleacher Report’s Gary Davenport: placing the franchise tag on Armstead, then trading him off this offseason:

"The tag makes the most sense—followed by a trade.The 49ers have only one pick in the first four rounds of the draft. Add in limited cap space, and you get a team that is limited in its ability to improve in 2020."

Armstead handled his contract year perfectly, enjoying a career-best campaign in order to cash in on a lucrative deal. The 49ers’ intentions of wanting him back could be true. But the ultimate situation for Lynch and the front office could warrant some different moves here.

San Francisco was on the opposite end of this kind of move a year ago, dishing off a second-round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for Ford after the Chiefs tagged him. The Niners subsequently signed Ford to a new deal, which is what would likely happen to Armstead if the 49ers traded him off to another team.

Armstead could command a day-two pick, as Davenport also suggested. And San Francisco currently is without one.

Getting a selection in Round 2 or 3 of the draft could allow Lynch to stay put at No. 31 overall, perhaps grabbing a wide receiver, safety or cornerback, then using the additional pick to reinforce one of the other positions not addressed with the team’s top selection.

And the Niners would ultimately save the $17 million needed for the franchise tag to shore up other areas of the roster or provide some much-needed new deals for tight end George Kittle or defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.

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With the deadline to tag players approaching, one shouldn’t be surprised if this winds up being the route San Francisco takes.