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The 49ers Knew They Couldn’t Let Nick Bosa Slip Away

Nick Bosa understood what Aaron Donald did when the Rams defensive tackle became the highest-paid defensive player in history in June 2022: The value of the nonquarterback contract is not just a reflection of the market, but it is a monetary representation of a team’s willingness to actually try to win a Super Bowl.

That’s why the only surprise with Bosa’s market-topping extension (reportedly a five-year, $170 million deal with $122.5 million guaraneed) being agreed to Wednesday was exactly how long it took to complete. I don’t think anyone on the Steelers, San Francisco’s Week 1 opponent, would imagine 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan or GM John Lynch sitting passively while games went by without the services of the league’s most dominant defensive player. Bosa, Reggie White and J.J. Watt are among the small handful of players who have had more than one 15-plus sack season over the course of their first four years in the NFL. If Bosa ages as a true tactician, the contract will be well worth the money.

But it’s not about whether he’s worth the money over a long period of time. It was never about whether Donald was worth the money over a long period of time. It is about realizing the true potential of a championship window, and cutting loose the actuarial segment of your brain interested in haggling over the last few wheat pennies. It’s about showering your best player with cash so that he will play well and, by extension, other players will play well in the hopes of also needing a vault installed in their basement crawl space once they see the direct deposit hit.

Bosa’s 34 sacks over the past two seasons lead the NFL.Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports

That’s what makes Chris Jones’s situation in Kansas City so puzzling. It’s not unfamiliar to successful organizations, though, that develop higher standards after a taste of the championship life and fear precedent-setting holdouts or cash demands will alter the future course of business. It’s amusing to see teams worry about the cost of such a move, both literally and figuratively, when it flies in the face of their actual objective.

How stupid would the 49ers have looked if they flamed out in the NFC wild-card round while Bosa was holding out somewhere? How silly would Kansas City ultimately look if it gets gutted by the Lions on Thursday night and doesn’t get a hand on Jared Goff’s uniform?

The cost of the contract, again, represents an unwillingness to find out. We can, all we want, praise executives for their tug-of-war ability. Indeed, their jobs are among the most difficult in football: showing an owner a winning franchise and also making them aware of how much money they have not spent in the process.

But when a GM is allowed to pull the trigger like the 49ers did on Wednesday, a day before the start of the 2023 NFL regular season, you know there was a phone call with an owner somewhere, at some point in the day, where the person caved. You know there was a moment when they believed the value of the deal was worth it to see a Super Bowl victory.

When a GM is not allowed to pull the trigger, one can make a similar, but opposite assumption. 


EltasZone Sportswriters, Sports Analysts, Opinion columnists, editorials and op-eds. Analysis from The Zone Team
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