DeForest Buckner sees irony in 49ers’ contract for Javon Hargrave

DeForest Buckner #99 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
DeForest Buckner #99 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Money got in the way of the 49ers retaining DeForest Buckner back in 2020, and now the Niners have given Javon Hargrave a lot of cash instead.

There are plenty of fans out there who wish the San Francisco 49ers somehow managed to retain one of the fan-favorite players, now-Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.

Entering 2020, though, the Niners had just come off a Super Bowl run and were looking to retain two of their top defensive players who helped them get to the big game, Buckner and fellow defensive tackle Arik Armstead.

Well, as those fans may recall, it was Armstead who got paid. Buckner was traded away to Indy in quite the blockbuster.

Part of the return for Buckner ultimately led to where San Francisco is now just after the opening days of NFL free agency in 2023.

The 49ers’ big signing of the free-agent period was former Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, brought aboard after an 11-sack campaign and expected to provide some serious interior thump alongside Armstead.

Tracing the path from Buckner to Hargrave isn’t difficult. Even Buckner recognizes that, even though he won’t openly say so.

How 49ers’ trade of DeForest Buckner led to Javon Hargrave

It’s not overly pleasant, but it’s looking as if a Niners failure ultimately paved the way from Buckner to Hargrave.

San Francisco acquired a first-round pick from Indianapolis for Buckner, traded down a spot and then used that selection to acquire defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw as Buckner’s de facto replacement.

Except Kinlaw’s pro career hasn’t exactly gotten off to a great start.

Derailed by numerous knee injuries, Kinlaw’s three years with the 49ers have resulted in 22 regular-season games played, 45 tackles and 1.5 sacks. While it’s not entirely his fault, the underwhelming nature of Buckner’s replacement likely prompted the Niners to go in on Hargrave.

Related Story: What 49ers signing Javon Hargrave means for Javon Kinlaw

Ironically, paying big money to Hargrave is probably something Buckner wished happened for him back in 2020, albeit with San Francisco instead of the Colts.

DeForest Buckner weighs in on 49ers signing Javon Hargrave

Speaking with the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mike Silver (h/t Niners Nation), Buckner expressed excitement for Hargrave joining his former team.

However, in light of the 49ers’ newest D-lineman getting a four-year, $81 million contract from the Niners with $40 million of it guaranteed, Buckner didn’t hesitate to point out the irony.

“Great for him!” Buckner told Silver, “Just funny how they literally gave him the same contract.”

Buckner could still have an ax to grind against the same team that drafted him in Round 1 back in 2016, yet ultimately wouldn’t dish out top dollar to him when it came time for an extension during that 2020 offseason.

But the context between 2020 and 2023 is notably different. There’s far more salary cap space available to teams now, and San Francisco no longer has an expensive quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, on the roster.

Still, it’s fair to wonder what could have been for Buckner and the 49ers had that trade never happened.

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