SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The news that the San Francisco 49ers have been waiting to hear for 43 days traveled quick Wednesday afternoon, most notably through the joyous screams echoing throughout the locker room from linebacker Fred Warner: Defensive end Nick Bosa is back.
The Niners and Bosa have agreed to a five-year, $170 million extension that will make him the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Wednesday.
The extension includes $122.5 million guaranteed, the source told ESPN.
Coach Kyle Shanahan, who was surprised when informed of the deal moments before his scheduled media availability, walked into the room with a big smile and confirmed that the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year is on his way back to the Bay Area to end his holdout, sign his deal and re-join the team before Sunday’s season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Once we kind of went through the weekend, I just kind of got in my mind that we weren’t playing with him,” Shanahan said. “If I would have gone back and forth, that would have been miserable, so I just decided we weren’t. I think our team was ready to not [have him] and that was our mindset, and it was a hell of a bonus just getting told that coming in here. So we’re obviously real excited about it.”
Among defensive players, the $34 million annual payout surpasses the $31.7 million average belonging to Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and the $122.5 million in guarantees easily surpasses the $102 million mark set by Bosa’s brother, Joey, with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2020.
Beyond the financials, the deal’s timing also means there’s a realistic chance Bosa will be in his traditional red No. 97 jersey on Sunday in Pittsburgh. While Shanahan said he needs to talk to Bosa and see where he is health-wise, one thing the Niners have never questioned is whether Bosa, who has been training at his home in Fort Lauderdale, would stay in shape during his holdout.
Which is why Shanahan indicated Bosa will be ready to go for Sunday, even joking that Bosa would play “as many snaps” as the game would allow.
“There is (some) question because we haven’t seen him, but I think you guys know how I’m talking,” Shanahan said. “He’d have to have a beer belly and be out of shape or something and that’s not in Nick Bosa’s DNA.”
If Bosa does play, he’d be following a blueprint put forth by Steelers pass rusher T.J. Watt in 2021. That year, Watt was a “hold-in,” who reported to training camp but did not participate in team periods in practice as he worked toward a new deal.
Watt agreed to a four-year, $112 million extension four days before the season opener against the Buffalo Bills and went on to post 2 sacks, 1 tackle for loss and 5 quarterback hits in a victory.
Given Bosa’s track record, his teammates wouldn’t be surprised if he is able to pick up where he left off in 2022, when he posted a league-leading 18.5 sacks, 51 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and 58 quarterback pressures (third in the NFL). That performance earned Bosa his first All-Pro nod and third Pro Bowl berth, setting the stage for Wednesday’s record-setting contract.
“I think Bosa’s much more than just a little kick (for the team),” left tackle Trent Williams said. “He’s a kick-it-out-of-the-back-of-the-end-zone type of kick. Having him back, we’re all elated. Couldn’t be happier.”
That the Niners and Bosa eventually struck a deal is no surprise. That it took more than six weeks after the team opened training camp was.
San Francisco has made a habit of re-signing some of its big-name players either just before camp or soon after it opens. It followed a similar blueprint with tight end George Kittle in 2020, linebacker Fred Warner in 2021 and receiver Deebo Samuel in 2022.
However, Bosa’s deal, the largest of that group, proved more complicated.
Shanahan and general manager John Lynch never expressed any doubt that a deal would get done and were adamant that trading Bosa was never an option. That certainty, at least for Shanahan and a handful of players, began to change a bit when the deal wasn’t done before Wednesday.
For his part, Bosa, who generally prefers to do his offseason work with brother Joey in Fort Lauderdale, showed up at the team’s June minicamp and reiterated his belief that his payday would come as long as he remained patient.
“I think I’ll get what I deserve,” Bosa said June 6.
As it turned out, what Bosa deserved was a contract that matches his status as the game’s top defender. How much longer that will be the case remains to be seen.
Dallas Cowboys pass rusher Micah Parsons will be eligible for an extension for the first time after this season and, after finishing as runner-up to Bosa for DPOY last year, will likely push for something in the same ballpark or beyond Bosa’s new deal.
“Super happy for Nick Bosa,” Parsons said Wednesday. “He really showed why he was the best player in the league last year. It gives you something to chase. And not in terms of his contract but in terms of how great he was. … He knows that I’m coming for him. He even said, ‘I won this year and I know you’ll be coming for it next year.'”
The Niners practiced Wednesday without Bosa as they eagerly anticipate his arrival back in the Bay Area. From there, Bosa will be worked into practice the next couple of days before the team departs for Pittsburgh on Friday.
And for the first time in months, the Niners, who have been to three NFC Championship games in the past four years, feel whole again as they attempt to break through and win the franchise’s elusive sixth Lombardi Trophy.
“You should have seen me screaming earlier,” Warner said. “I’m sure everybody knows how he makes everybody’s life easier, not just me. Being one of the most dominant defensive players in the league, the run and pass game, just the most complete player on the edge clears a lot of things up.”
ESPN’s Todd Archer contributed to this report.