Arik Armstead, 49ers share the challenges of his bittersweet release

Both Arik Armstead and the 49ers described the difficulties associated with his recent release just before the start of the league new year.

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead (91)
San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead (91) / Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

Arik Armstead admitted he felt 'disrespected' by the 49ers, who also admitted 'it was real tough' letting him go this offseason.

Change is inevitable.

For the San Francisco 49ers, they experienced that in a hard way already this offseason when they ultimately elected to release their longest-tenured player, defensive tackle Arik Armstead, in what was a salary cap-savings move that freed up $18 million in cap space.

In addition to freeing up cap space, the Niners had other reasons why they opted to go this route. A big factor was Armstead's foot injuries that limited him to only nine regular-season games in 2022 and 12 last season.

Plus, being on the wrong side of 30 years old, Armstead prompted San Francisco to get younger and cheaper.

His release led to the 49ers trading for former Houston Texans defensive tackle Maliek Collins.

"It was real tough," head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters earlier this week, via 49ers Webzone. "I mean, we've been with Arik since we've been here and I know he was here a couple years before us, so it wasn't something we really wanted to happen. It's one of the tough things when trying to keep a team together, and just where it goes with the salary cap and stuff."

Prior to the release, the Niners approached Armstead about taking a pay cut, which he ultimately refused. San Francisco then granted his release to allow him to test the open market.

The veteran defensive tackle subsequently signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars on a three-year deal worth up to $51 million.

CEO Jed York also elaborated on the tough choice to let Armstead go:

"He was willing to work with us, and we had a good conversation with Arik. He just asked if he could test what his market value was, and he knew what we offered him. And I think he was appreciative that we did it in a way that gave him the opportunity to test the market and see.

And for a guy that's played nine years for the club and has done amazing things on the field, off the field, it's a lot easier for us to work with him where I don't want to see him go somewhere else, but he was able to see what his value was. And I think we owed him the opportunity to do that, and we gave him that respect."

But the 49ers also admitted that injuries played a role in the final decision to release Armstead.

General manager John Lynch added the following:

"We just made a decision, and part of it was he had missed some games. That happens. But at his number, we had to adjust it, and we made that trade for Maliek, and so we wish Arik nothing but the best.

Those are tough decisions. Arik's done so much for our team. He's such a fabric of who we are as a team, the work he does, and the community. ... But ultimately, he chose to bet on himself, and I think he made a good call because his market was there."

While these all sound like heartfelt sentiments from the Niners' front office, Armstead's own words echo something slightly different.

Arik Armstead admits he felt 'extremely disrespected' by 49ers

Understandably, Armstead's perspective on the situation is slightly different than what Shanahan, York and Lynch echoed. Armstead is ultimately on the move, changing teams for the first time in his career and moving clear across the country.

On the video podcast, Third and Long, Armstead wanted to clarify that he has no ill feelings toward San Francisco and the organization as a whole.

Yet he did feel slighted by what happened.

"I don't have any animosity towards the organization," Armstead declared. "Kyle, John, the York family."

However, Armstead did admit he wasn't pleased with what led to his release.

"I did feel extremely disrespected," he continued. "They extended an offer to me ... [redacted] million dollars. Nine years of me being there, the fans deserve to know what happened."

It's not uncommon for players to feel this way after being let go by their respective teams, but at least Armstead admits there's no hard feelings.

The full episode of Third and Long drops on the afternoon of Thursday, March 28, and it'll likely generate a few more headlines with regard to Armstead's sentiments.

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