3 former players San Francisco 49ers might miss in 2020

Emmanuel Sanders #17 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Emmanuel Sanders #17 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /
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DeForest Buckner, 49ers
DeForest Buckner #99 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

No. 1: 49ers Defensive Line Is Worse without DeForest Buckner

Perhaps the toughest move the Niners had to make this offseason was trading off Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts.

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Granted, San Francisco turned that first-round draft pick received in return into the selection of South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, who’ll look to be the perfect replacement for Buckner along the 49ers defensive line right out of the gate. The move also freed up roughly $12 million in salary cap this year, and Buckner got his with the Colts, inking a new deal worth $21 million annually.

That’ll help save San Francisco money, which was used to re-sign other key defenders, such as defensive end Arik Armstead and safety Jimmie Ward.

But that doesn’t change the fact the Niners D-line is worse now than it was before Buckner was jettisoned.

Buckner was a positive presence for a number of reasons. A locker room leader, Buckner also anchored two or three blockers per play, freeing up San Francisco’s pass-rushers, like Armstead, to get to opposing quarterbacks with regularity.

Automatically assuming Kinlaw will do the same in year one could be a bit premature.

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It was a tough-but-understandable move, yes. Yet it’s impossible to suggest the 49ers defense improved this offseason by trading away Buckner.