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McDonald: 49ers’ Nick Bosa chases sack record with record contract to follow

By Jerry Mcdonald

SANTA CLARA — How high can Nick Bosa go?

The 49ers’ edge rusher is playing so well it seems almost limitless. With six sacks in four games, he’s on pace for 25 1/2, which with the help of a 17th game would obliterate the existing record of 22 1/2 by Pittsburgh’s T.J. Watt last season and Michael Strahan of the New York Giants in 2001.

“I just want to affect the game as much as I can, and pressures and sacks and all that stuff definitely helps,” Bosa said Wednesday. “So as long as I can do that a lot, it gives our defense a chance to be the best.”

If Bosa even gets to 20, another record looms according to Joel Corry, a former agent and a contract and salary cap expert for CBS Sports. With their quarterback of the future already under contract, the 49ers would be in position to pay up — in a big way.

“If that happens, Aaron Donald probably won’t be the NFL’s highest-paid non-quarterback anymore,” Corry said this week via Twitter direct message. “He has the same agent as his brother. Joey (Bosa) became the league’s highest-paid non-quarterback in his deal in 2020. The 49ers having Trey Lance on a cost-controlled rookie contract helps in that regard.”

Donald, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the year for the Los Angeles Rams as a defensive tackle, has a $31.6 million average salary that is the highest in the NFL aside from a dozen quarterbacks. In July of 2020, that spot was temporarily held by Bosa’s brother, Joey, of the Los Angeles Chargers, whose agent Brian Ayrault negotiated a five-year, $135 million with a $27 million average. Ayrault also represents Nick Bosa.

The top five edge rushers in terms of average salary are as follows: Watt ($28 million), Joey Bosa ($27 million), Cleveland’s Myles Garrett ($25 million), the Chargers’ Khalil Mack ($23.5 million), the Raiders’ Maxx Crosby ($23.5 million) and Buffalo’s Von Miller ($20 million).

And if you were to inject 32 general managers with truth serum and ask them who they’d want if money were no object, 32 of them would take Nick Bosa. Because at a sculpted and explosive 6-foot-4 and 266 pounds, he’s that good.

“He’s on a list of his own,” 49ers veteran safety Tashaun Gipson said. “You can’t put him on a list. I’ve been with some great players. I’ve played with Khalil Mack . . . to see him in person is something crazy to see.”

It’s enough to make you wonder if the 49ers erred in not making a serious attempt to lock up Bosa over the summer, a year earlier than is their norm, rather than wait until one year was left on his original contract. As it is, Bosa is tied to the 49ers through a fifth-year option worth $17.859 million, though rest assured he won’t step on the field under those terms.

“Typically, it costs a team more the longer they wait to sign a Pro Bowl-caliber player,” Corry said. “If everything had gone according to plan with a Jimmy Garoppolo trade, I wonder if the 49ers would have done a deal before the season with the extra salary cap space.”

All the money 49ers CEO Jed York is donating to local political candidates in Santa Clara will be pocket change compared to what he’ll have to pay Bosa.

With the floor being Donald’s $31.6 million average, don’t be surprised if Bosa checks in at five years and $165 million (an average of $33 million) or more. And the 49ers will be helpless to do anything but write the check.

The 49ers have had impact rushers in the past such as Fred Dean and Charles Haley, with Dean acquired by trade and Haley developing as a fourth-round draft pick. Bosa arrived as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft out of Ohio State and looked like a finished product the first time he took the field.

But Bosa, who turns 25 this month, wasn’t finished and isn’t finished. He’s continued to get better, even after being derailed by a torn ACL that cost him all but two games of the 2020 season.

49ers defensive end Nick Bosa looked like a finished product when he arrived but has gotten progressively better.

Bosa’s stock in trade is pressuring the quarterback, but he’s played between 73 and 78 percent of the snaps in four games. 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said Bosa is as good a run defender as he is a pass rusher.

While pressuring Matthew Stafford 14 times against the Rams, Bosa was like a hurricane. Yet he’s constantly thinking about how to get better with a singular focus on football and how it is impacted by training, diet and strategy.

A perfect example came on a sack Monday night by teammate Samson Ebukam, when Bosa crashed through low but pulled his hands away realizing there would be a potential flag for hitting the quarterback at the knees.

“Whenever you fall pretty close to his knees, it’s good to show an effort you’re not trying to grab at him,” Bosa said. “I knew I didn’t have the sack so I tried to pull off him.”

Nor does Bosa simply line up and destroy the blockers in front of him. He understands the strengths of his teammates and is adept at running stunts to get free of the extra blockers assigned to him.

One such play against the Rams came with the help of Arik Armstead, with Bosa coming free up the middle.

Source: Paradise Post