49ers Cut Ties With Team Captain After He Refuses Salary Reduction

After the Super Bowl loss to the Chiefs last month, it was obvious that for the San Francisco 49ers to move on with their main pieces intact in 2024, something would have to give. And on Sunday, something did, indeed, give, as plans for the release of star defensive tackle Arik Armstead were reported around the league, adding a surprise new free-agent piece onto the landscape.

49ers star Arik Armstead will be released after he was unable to work out a pay cut with the team.

According to Jordan Schultz of Bleacher Report, the team, which is facing a cap crunch especially as it tries to sign star receiver Brandon Aiyuk to a new deal, had approached Armstead—the team’s first-round pick in 2015—to take a pay cut. He was amenable, but ultimately no deal was reached.

On Sunday, March 10, Schultz wrote, “Sources to @BleacherReport: #49ers star DL Arik Armstead has decided to become a free agent and will be released. Armstead comes off a 6 tackle, 1-sack performance in the Super Bowl, and ranks 4th in playoff sacks among all active players. His 8 playoff sacks rank second all-time in franchise history.”

Arik Armstead Was Scheduled to Make $17.4 Million

Armstead is in the final year of a five-year, $85 million contract he signed in 2020. He was slated for a base salary of $17.4 million this year and will now test free agency.

Certainly, the 49ers wanted to find a way to keep Armstead. ESPN’s Adam Schefter wrote on X on Sunday night, “After the 49ers and DL Arik Armstead attempted but failed to work out a restructured contract, San Francisco now plans to release him, per source. Armstead now is expected to become a free agent. The two sides came close to a deal, but Armstead, as @Schultz_Report reported, wanted to see what his market is.”

It should be a good market, indeed. Armstead is one of the top interior defensive linemen in the game. We got a good look at how the 49ers look without Armstead in the middle of the defensive line back in Week 15 against the Cardinals. The result was 234 yards rushing for the 49ers, a season-high in rush yards allowed and the team’s worst showing in that category since 2017.

Armstead missed the final five games of the regular season and it’s little wonder that those five games saw the 49ers give up 100-plus yards of rushing. They allowed 100-yard rushers just three times in the first 12 games of the season.

49ers Will Have Big Hole to Fill

It will not be easy to replace Armstead, though his recent injury history was certainly a factor in the decision to let him walk. Armstead struggled with plantar fasciitis late this season and into the playoffs, and struggled with the same injury last year.

In all, he has missed 13 games the past two seasons and, at age 30, there was obviously a fear that injuries would continue to be an issue.

Still, Armstead is an elite interior lineman and one of the team’s best veteran leaders. He was a captain last year, the fourth time he had served that role for the 49ers.

At Pro Football Focus, he has earned a grade of 78.4, which is 16th among the 130 qualified defensive linemen in the NFL. Armstead is third on the team in sacks (5.0) and is second with 13 quarterback hits.

The 49ers have precious little experience on the defensive line behind Armstead and fellow starter Javon Hargrave, as no interior lineman under contract had more than 56 snaps played to their credit last season.

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