After 43-day holdout, defensive player of the year signs for $170 million over 5 years
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Defensive end Nick Bosa has agreed to the richest contract in 49ers history, ending a 43-day holdout in what was truly a fait accompli for a franchise that is putting everything it has into winning its first Super Bowl since 1994.
The mega-deal comes just days before the regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. According to ESPN, Bosa’s five-year, $170 million contract extension includes a $122.5 million guarantee.
Coach Kyle Shanahan found out about the deal just minutes before his press conference and an hour before Wednesday’s practice. General manager John Lynch and contract czars Paraag Marathe and Brian Hampton informed Shanahan in his office, prompting “a couple of bro hugs,” Shanahan smiled.
Bosa, who Shanahan says is on his way to the 49ers facility, is expected to play on Sunday. Otherwise, “he’d need to have a beer belly and be out of shape, which is not in Bosa’s DNA,” Shanahan explained.
When asked how many snaps Bosa might get, the “pumped-up” coach responded, “How many snaps are in the game?” No way, Nick will be in great shape. We’ll be cautious and base our decision on the next two practices.”
Bosa, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, sat out training camp before taking his rightful place alongside other 49ers commanding top-tier salaries. Bosa is the highest-paid defensive player and non-quarterback in NFL history, earning $34 million per year.
Unlike many other Silicon Valley venture capitalists, the 49ers are funding a project that is approaching its third decade without the ultimate payoff: a Super Bowl victory.
“We all know the York family and ownership group will put their money where their mouth is,” said left tackle Williams. “They’re not afraid to go out on a limb and pay a guy the most in history.” They do that, especially for players who are worth it, and Nick is clearly one of them. Anyone in the NFL would have paid him whatever he desired.”
Tight end George Kittle, linebacker Fred Warner, left tackle Trent Williams, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, cornerback Charvarius Ward, and defensive tackles Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave are also on big-money deals this season. Shanahan mentioned how the 49ers typically reward one player per year with a large contract extension.
Add up all of the money the 49ers are spending this season – close to $260 million – and that’s the price you pay for bringing in and keeping top-tier talent in pursuit of a long-awaited sixth Lombardi Trophy.
“We are aware of the commercial aspect of it. “We recognize that we have a fantastic football team with great core values at critical positions,” Kittle said early in training camp. “We realize the (championship) window, whatever it is, may be closing.” We’re going to do everything we can to keep that window open as long as possible, but we’re going to try to sneak in some wins while it’s still open.”
The 49ers’ last Super Bowl victory coincided with the implementation of the salary cap in 1994, which was set at $34.6 million. That is nearly as much as Aaron Donald’s annual salary with the Los Angeles Rams, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and the standard bearer for Bosa’s contract.
Bosa’s fifth-year option on his rookie contract for 2019 was set to pay him nearly $18 million. Adding to his leverage: a career-high 18 12 sacks last season, giving him 43 sacks since his debut as the 2019 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
It’s believed that Bosa has spent the past month working out at the gym he and his older brother, Joey, built in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where they train religiously each offseason rather than participating in their teams’ voluntary programs. Joey Bosa is three years removed from signing a five-year, $135 million contract extension with the Chargers, which stood as the market’s best until T.J. Watt corralled a bigger salary (four years, $112 million) from the Pittsburgh Steelers just days before the 2021 season opener.
Watt played 69 snaps and had two sacks and a forced fumble in that 23-16 road win over the Buffalo Bills, despite missing camp and making his debut only three days earlier.
As a result, Bosa is expected to play in Pittsburgh on Sunday.
With no progress in negotiations last weekend, Shanahan’s thinking shifted to not having Bosa available for the season opener.
“We all knew Nick would get rewarded like he did,” Shanahan said, noting that he stayed out of contract negotiations, putting the pressure on Lynch and the front office.
“I’m not happy with the situation. “We haven’t had a holdout anywhere near that magnitude since our tenure year, so it’s not something I’m comfortable with,” Lynch told KNBR 680-AM on Aug. 18. “… He’s a unique player. He’ll be given a special contract.”
The 49ers’ first-year defensive coordinator, Steve Wilks, anticipates an easy transition for Bosa’s return, saying during training camp, “You guys have been around here longer than I have and I’ve seen it from afar, but I think he’ll be fine when he gets here.”
For the first time in his career, Bosa was named captain of the San Francisco 49ers last year. He was not one of the six players chosen this season — Kittle, Williams, Brock Purdy, Deebo Samuel, Arik Armstead, and Fred Warner — but his impact is undeniable.
“As laid back and monotonous as he appears, he’s an important part of this locker room,” Williams said. “A lot of people are really into him. We can learn a lot from him in terms of treating your body well, eating well, and sleeping well.”
His influence extends beyond on-field performance to off-field motivation, such as his pre-game team speeches or his overall example.
Rather than relying on Bosa as much as in previous seasons, the title-hunting 49ers made a big financial move in March, luring defensive tackle Javon Hargrave from Philadelphia (four years, $84 million).
“That’s why you go get a Javon Hargrave and add him to the mix even though we’ve got a lot of highly compensated players: because you’ve got belief in this group,” Lynch said when camp opened on July 25. “You don’t do those things unless you have faith in this group, in the culture, in this guy and his ability to lead this organization.”
“But we have that much belief, that’s what we’re here for, and now we have to go do it.”
Shanahan has stated that the 49ers’ focus and financial commitment remain unchanged from when he and Lynch arrived in 2017, and that CEO Jed York is committed to winning. Bosa’s contract is the most recent — and best — example.
“That’s the goal of your approach. “You want your players to notice that,” Shanahan explained. “You hope you can get the guys who play the right way and at a certain level and reward them.” And I believe it began with, “I want to go back to Fred, Deebo, Kittle, and all those guys.” And Nick was either the year before or the year after them, correct? I believe the following year. As a result, I’d like to have one every year.”
Before the season, their top priority was to pay Bosa.
“Obviously, it’s a bigger contract and takes a little more negotiating, so it took a little longer,” Williams explained. “We got him to sign. I’m looking forward to welcoming him with open arms. My arms may need to be a little wider now that he has larger pockets.”