The 49ers weren’t going to give defensive tackle DeForest Buckner the long-term contract he was looking for, so they decided to move him in a trade to the Colts for a first-round pick earlier this year.
After trading down one spot, the Niners took defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw with the pick they acquired so they were able to fill the slot that Buckner left behind on the depth chart. Defensive end Nick Bosa doesn’t think it is going to be as easy to fill Buckner’s slot on the field, however.
“Buck was definitely one of my best friends on the team and seeing him go is obviously bittersweet,” Bosa said, via Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com. “He got a pretty good contract and he deserves it but just losing him as a leader, we’re going to have to really figure out how to step up and fill that void because he was the third down D-line play caller, he was the hype speech guy, he was everything. And I think he played with the best effort on the D-line, which really shows on tape when you see somebody that big sprinting to the ball every play and making those tackles downfield and obviously his pass rush ability, we’re gonna have to step it up for him.”
The other key players from last year’s defensive line remain on hand, so the 49ers aren’t close to starting from scratch up front this season. That doesn’t mean they’ll avoid rough patches without Buckner, particularly if Kinlaw isn’t quite ready to hit the ground running later this year.