Colts All-Pro DeForest Buckner Was a Casualty in an Unfortunate Business Decision, but He’s Making the 49ers Pay Anyway

Article Highlights:

  • The San Francisco 49ers traded DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts in 2020
  • The 49ers used high draft capital to select Buckner
  • Buckner returns to San Francisco to face the 49ers in Week 7
Colts defensive lineman DeForest Buckner looks on at practice; 49ers GM John Lynch on the field before a game
DeForest Buckner of the Indianapolis Colts on the field during practice | Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images; San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch looks on during a game | Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers made a shocking move after the 2020 season when they struck a deal that sent DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts will face the 49ers in Week 7 on Sunday Night Football. All eyes will be on Buckner in his return to the city where his NFL career began.

The Colts acquired DeForest Buckner from the 49ers after the 2019 season

The 49ers built one of the NFL’s most dominant defenses for a few years behind a stout defensive line. DeForest Buckner was an integral piece in a unit featuring Dee Ford, Arik Armstead, and Nick Bosa.

Buckner recorded 62 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles in 2019. The Oregon product had established himself as one of the fiercest interior defensive linemen in the league.

However, general manager John Lynch and the front office found themselves in a precarious financial situation. Buckner had a big contract, and the 49ers couldn’t afford to retain him. Lynch coordinated with Colts general manager Chris Ballard, and the two sides reached an agreement.

San Francisco shipped its star defensive tackle off to Indianapolis for the No. 13 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The move was one Lynch felt he had to make.

With the draft pick they acquired, the 49ers selected defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw out of South Carolina. The Colts got themselves a cornerstone for their defense.

Buckner is a Pro Bowl-caliber player

DeForest Buckner was one of the most talented defensive players in the 2020 NFL Draft class regardless of position. He quickly found pro success in the San Francisco defense, too.

The Hawaii native recorded 263 tackles, 38 tackles for loss, 28.5 sacks, and seven fumble recoveries in four seasons with the 49ers. San Francisco fielded a top-10 defense in 2019, and Buckner played a vital role in accomplishing that feat.

The 27-year-old defensive tackle earned his first Pro Bowl selection in 2018 after registering 67 tackles and 12 sacks on the season. With his skill set, he could play in many more Pro Bowls before his career ends.

Buckner stands 6-foot-7 and 295 pounds. He’s a mountain of a man who possesses excellent technique and deceptive athleticism. Pro Football Focus gave the All-Pro a grade of 73.7 through the Colts’ first six games.

John Lynch didn’t want to trade Buckner. “Probably the toughest thing I’ve done since I’ve been a general manager here. It’s a difficult part of this business,” said Lynch per ESPN. “One that I don’t think you can really prepare yourself when you move on from a player who embodies everything that you want to be about.”

The Colts need Buckner to have a big game in his return to San Francisco

DeForest Buckner will suit up against the San Francisco 49ers for the first time since they traded him to the Colts. Not to mention, the game will be on the road at Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco in the primetime slot.

Sometimes, players downplay the revenge game narrative when playing against the team that dumped them. However, Buckner acknowledges that this game does mean a little bit more.

“It’s a little personal,” he said. “Definitely don’t know how I’m going to feel. Probably have mixed emotions. Started my family out there. Got the opportunity to play at the highest level, drafted me. Poured my heart and soul [into that organization].”

Indianapolis brings a 2-4 record into the Sunday Night Football matchup against the 49ers after winning two of their last three games. The Colts’ defense is currently a middle-of-the-pack unit, but they will need a strong performance to notch the team’s third win of the season.

Buckner and Darius Leonard are the defensive leaders for the Colts and must come to play. Indianapolis boasts a solid run defense, and Buckner’s presence in the middle leads the charge.

If the Colts want to pull off the road upset, the star defensive end will need to dominate the line of scrimmage against his former teammates.

Buckner has an opportunity to remind the Niners why they drafted him.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.

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