SANTA CLARA, Calif. — On a team with many important pending free agents, there’s no debate about who the San Francisco 49ers’ top priority is. It’s defensive end Nick Bosa, who, coincidentally, isn’t about to hit the market.
But with Bosa entering what would be the fifth and final year on his rookie contract, the Niners want to get something done before next season begins. Which means the amount of money they’ll have to spend on free agents such as right tackle Mike McGlinchey, cornerback Emmanuel Moseley, kicker Robbie Gould, center Jake Brendel and others won’t be as plentiful.
Not that any of them would argue Bosa’s place in the pecking order.
“You have to be real about it because there’s a lot of damn good football players in our locker room and a lot of them that need to be paid,” McGlinchey said. “We’ve certainly got one that’s going to break the entire bank.”
That would be Bosa, who is coming off his best season in which he earned his first Defensive Player of the Year award, first All-Pro nod and third Pro Bowl berth. The timing for such a dominant season couldn’t have been better for Bosa, who was technically able to negotiate a contract extension for the first time last offseason but was OK waiting, knowing that another huge year would put him in even better position to cash in.
All Bosa did was return to San Francisco in the best shape of his life and post a league-leading 18.5 sacks to go with 51 tackles, two forced fumbles and 58 quarterback pressures (third most in the NFL). Suffice to say, Bosa’s patience paid off, and he’s now positioned to land the largest non-quarterback contract in NFL history.
Of course, like linebacker Fred Warner, receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle before him, Bosa will probably have to wait a while before a deal comes together.
“I’m definitely gonna have patience and probably not worry about it for some time,” Bosa said. “I have an amazing agent who will handle all that, and I’ll just enjoy my time off and get ready to roll next year.”
That approach has worked for most of those who have come before Bosa. With the notable exception of defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (who was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in 2020), the Niners have re-signed the majority of their big-name players both before they became free agents or immediately after. It’s a list that includes Samuel, Warner, Kittle, left tackle Trent Williams, defensive lineman Arik Armstead and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
The first three players on that list provide a blueprint for Bosa to follow. For players with another year left on their rookie deals, the Niners have traditionally taken care of other offseason business — free agency, the draft, organized team activities — before wrapping up big-money deals either right before training camp or soon after it opens. Samuel was the most complicated of those deals, but, after a trade request, he ended up signing a new deal early in camp last season.
Which means Bosa’s patience should serve him well as he waits.
“He’s a fantastic football player, he’s a game-changer,” general manager John Lynch said. “I should stop now, but everybody already knows all that. I think we have a really good track record. You look the last five years, working backwards with Deebo and before that it was Fred and Kittle and Trent and Jimmy of getting our players done but it takes time, it takes patience, it takes persistence, and we’ll have that on our side. … He’s pretty chill about the whole thing, and I think with that in mind and each of us wanting the same thing , we’ll be able to come to an agreement.”
If and when that happens, Bosa will likely reset the market for what top defensive players can earn. Bosa is represented by Brian Ayrault, who negotiated the five-year, $135 million extension for Bosa’s brother, Joey, in 2020. That deal established new highs for non-quarterbacks in average annual salary ($27 million), guaranteed money ($102 million) and fully guaranteed money ($78 million).
Since that deal, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Pittsburgh Steelers edge rusher TJ Watt have moved some of those numbers to new heights, with Donald’s re-worked deal averaging $31.67 million per year and Watt receiving $80 million in full guarantees at the time of signing. Which means it’s realistic to think an extension for Bosa could start that $160 million for five years, with more than $80 million fully guaranteed at signing.
Asked whether he intends to become the highest-paid defender in the league, Bosa said he hasn’t given it much thought.
“Not necessarily,” Bosa said. “[I’ll] just see where it goes.”
As Bosa awaits a new deal, he plans to head back home to Florida and take a little time off before he and Joey dive into their normal offseason workout routine. Bosa’s trainer and personal chef are ready for whenever Bosa gets back to business. It’s been common practice for him to spend most of his offseason away from the 49ers facility. If he does so again during the offseason programme, it’s unlikely to be contract related.
After all, Bosa has no intention of writing his next chapter anywhere else.
“I’d love to be here for sure,” Bosa said. “This is a great organization. They treat me as good as you can. And I have amazing relationships here, so hopefully [it gets done].”