Trading a top 15 defensive player when your team was just seven minutes from a Super Bowl title is a move not often made, but that's the gamble John Lynch made.
Realizing the 49ers couldn't afford both Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner, Lynch gave Buckner's agent permission to seek a trade and wound up shipping the defensive tackle to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 overall pick.
While it was a bold gamble by the 49ers general manager, it was a deal that worked out for both sides, NBC Sports' Peter King believes.
"The Niners, assuming they end up paying defensive end Nick Bosa, knew they couldn't pay top dollar to five defensive linemen and thus jettisoned Buckner," King wrote in his Football Morning In American column. "Added benefit: GM John Lynch traded down one spot, still got [Javon] Kinlaw and got the ammo to trade up for wideout Brandon Aiyuk in round one. The Colts got a 26-year-old top-tier defensive tackle, a must in their D, in his prime. Good deal for both teams, if Kinlaw can be the stout space-eater San Francisco is counting on."
It's hard to disagree with King's analysis, but all of it will come down to how well Kinlaw and Aiyuk play and whether or not they can help the 49ers capture a Super Bowl title.
For three quarters, Buckner, along with Bosa, were the two best players on the field in Super Bowl LIV until Patrick Mahomes went nuclear in the final six minutes to deliver a title to the Kansas City Chiefs. The 49ers' success last season stemmed from a dominant defensive line that wrapped itself around opposing offenses and strangled the life out of them, enjoying every ounce of life they squeezed from their opponents.
Buckner was a big part of that and it will be hard for Kinlaw, as talented as he is, to replace the production and presence Buckner brought to the table. Aiyuk has sky-high potential and should thrive in coach Kyle Shanahan's innovative offense. Aiyuk and Kinlaw should be key pieces to the 49ers' future, but can they deliver what the 49ers need in 2020 to make the loss of Buckner sting less?
That's the question facing two talented rookies and the question that Lynch's offseason of change ultimately will be judged on.
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DeForest Buckner trade worked out for both 49ers, Colts, Peter King says originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area