The 49ers need to extend two of their star players, Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel. And while Samuel has received the spotlight, Bosa’s extension should be first.
The San Francisco 49ers are facing a notably serious challenge this offseason.
They’ve got to extend two of their best players from the 2019 NFL Draft, All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel and Pro Bowl EDGE Nick Bosa, who are both eligible to receive what should be lucrative contract extensions entering 2022.
Both players are cornerstone pieces. No doubting that. Samuel with his 1,770 all-purpose yards last season, third most in the league, and his use as a “wide back” fully unloaded the maximum potential of head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Bosa, a year after tearing his ACL, recorded a team-best 15.5 sacks and league-best 21 tackles for a loss, prompting many to think he should have been a clear-cut All-Pro instead of just a Pro Bowler last season.
Without diving too deep into which player is more important to the Niners’ overall success moving forward (they both are), there are still reasons why extending Bosa now should be general manager John Lynch’s top priority.
Not necessarily Samuel, who has nevertheless commanded San Francisco’s offseason headlines in light of his apparent frustrations with the lack of extension-talk progress (assuming that’s what’s going on).
This isn’t an either-or scenario. Lynch even stressed the 49ers’ desire to make both Samuel and Bosa long-term figureheads of the team moving forward. It won’t be easy, though. Not with the Niners currently having less than $1.7 million in available cap space, according to Over the Cap. Even with the 2023 salary cap expected to increase significantly over the current mark of $208.2 million, San Francisco would ideally like to have some serious carryover to apply to both Samuel and Bosa’s future contracts.
If the 49ers had to choose to finalize one of those first, it should be Bosa’s deal.
49ers must prioritize Nick Bosa extension, then Deebo Samuel
Again, let’s not get into who is more important. Let’s try sticking with sheer dollars and projections for top players at their respective positions.
The Niners do have Bosa under potential control through 2023, thanks to him being a former first-round draft pick and the associated fifth-year option, whereas Samuel is scheduled to be a free agent after 2022.
However, the market for elite-level outside pass-rushers is much more defined (and potentially much more expensive) than wide receivers.
Let’s take a look at the top-three wide receiver contracts right now based solely on annual average value:
- Tyreek Hill, Miami Dolphins: $30 million
- Davante Adams, Las Vegas Raiders: $28 million
- DeAndre Hopkins, Arizona Cardinals: $27.25 million
Now, in contrast, here are the top-three EDGE contracts:
- T.J. Watt, Pittsburgh Steelers: $28 million
- Joey Bosa, Los Angeles Chargers: $27 million
- Myles Garrett, Cleveland Browns: $25 million
On the surface, getting a Samuel deal done before Nick Bosa would make more sense. Except we’re talking about multi-year first-team All-Pro players in that bunch. Joey Bosa is the lone outlier (missing a first-team All-Pro selection) of the crop of pass-rushers.
Hill and Adams only recently set the new benchmark for top-end wide receivers. While Watt did the same last year, the deals for Bosa and Garrett both took place in 2020, meaning it won’t be long before another pass-rusher resets that particular market.
Perhaps Nick Bosa, especially if he backs up his outstanding 2021 efforts with another great year in 2022.
Samuel, regardless of his recent asks, isn’t going to cost more per year than Hill or Adams. He might flirt with Hopkins’ numbers a bit, but it wouldn’t be a shock whatsoever if Bosa winds up becoming the highest-paid defensive player in league history.
While it might cost San Francisco a lot right now, getting that deal done and effectively getting ahead of the market would be smart. The 49ers would be allocating that money towards their best defensive player first, then determining what it would take to make Samuel happy, too.
Now, all we have to see is if the Niners are in agreement with this strategy.