SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Was that the all-time happiest Kyle Shanahan podium appearance on Wednesday? Followed up immediately by the cheeriest 49ers mid-week locker-room mood in recent history?
I think so. I think these 90 minutes might be unrivaled for the levels of all-out merriment, from the moment Shanahan levitated into the news conference auditorium only minutes after learning that Nick Bosa had signed a new $170 million contract extension and would almost certainly be available to play in Sunday’s regular-season opener in Pittsburgh, to all the giddy players who greeted the media when the locker room was opened up a little bit later.
“Can’t wait to welcome him with open arms,” Trent Williams said of Bosa. “My arms might have to be a little wider because he’s got bigger pockets now.”
There was joy. There was pure relief, too. Coming as it did, just before media access with all reporters assembled to quiz everybody in 49erdom about Bosa’s absence, this all provided a pretty open look at a high-profile team reacting to very positive news pretty much in real time.
“I actually was preparing to talk to you guys about how I have nothing to tell you guys (about Bosa),” Shanahan said with a big smile, “and I was three minutes late because I just got told of the news.”
Maybe Shanahan and the players were just as jubilant last October when the 49ers pulled off the Christian McCaffrey trade. But that deal happened on a Thursday night; the coach and players didn’t speak about it to the media until the next day, when they were still thrilled but the adrenaline had turned into the practical problem of getting McCaffrey ready to play a few days later.
And the Deebo Samuel, Fred Warner, George Kittle, Arik Armstead and Williams deals (and the various Jimmy Garoppolo agreements) over the last few years were also all major moments, but none of them quite had this kind of drama and public crescendo.
The Bosa situation was, is and will probably always remain singular because even in a locker room full of stars, Bosa stands out. Even on a roster that does not lack high salaries, Bosa’s deal busted all precedents. Even on a team that isn’t lacking people with a lot of leverage, nobody has the kind of clout that Bosa was exercising this summer. Rightly so. Because he’s Bosa. And everybody on the team knew the 49ers had to bust all precedents for him. Which took time — more time than anybody expected, almost too much time to get Bosa into uniform for Week 1.
That led to tension. That led to Shanahan starting this week to plan as if Bosa would miss the Steelers game. That led to worries about how long this might go on. That threw a lot of things off-kilter. That is, of course, not how any team, especially the 49ers, wants to go into a season.
“I would be lying to say it wasn’t (a worry in the locker room),” Williams said. “Because he’s such a huge contributor to what we do as a defense and how we play. It’s not like anybody else going down. Defensive Player of the Year. You miss people like that. I know it’s a next-man-up league, but a lot of that goes out the window when you’re talking about a player like this.”
Until this news dropped a little after noon on Wednesday, the 49ers’ training camp conversation had been dominated by the QB2 competition that Trey Lance lost, the much-debated trading of Lance to the Cowboys, the shakiness of rookie kicker Jake Moody and then his minor injury and, naturally, the building Bosa apprehension. There was concern all around 49ers HQ, I can tell you that. There was definitely a lot of worrying about the Bosa void.
“Yeah, I kind of think everybody was,” Arik Armstead said.
Nick Bosa’s deal brings boost of confidence — and levity — to 49ers locker room
But the 49ers got it done. That’s all that matters once it’s over. There were certainly some miscalculations on the 49ers’ part about Bosa’s resolve. They pressed it to the time limit. They certainly paid more than they wanted to or ever planned to. But they got it done.
“We all knew Nick was going to get rewarded like he did,” Shanahan said. “I don’t know the exact details of it, but I knew it would be like that eventually. Our organization did, and I think Nick did, and I’m just glad we got it worked out on everyone’s side because we love Nick. I think he loves being here and he’s definitely earned this and he’s going to earn it going forward too.”
Thanks to this deal on top of all the other big ones, there assuredly will be some necessary adjustments — and likely, some large contracts discarded or reduced — in the next few years when all the 49ers’ major deals start to explode on the cap and when Brock Purdy likely will be due a large extension.
But that’s for later. If you’re going to maintain a Super Bowl-level roster for several years, you’re going to face this kind of pressure. You’re going to have to pay these kinds of rates; for a superstar like Bosa, you’re going to have to pay $34 million a year with $122.5 million in guaranteed money. You can’t avoid it. If you don’t want to do this, say goodbye to chasing Super Bowls.
And Jed York and his family, I imagine with some prodding by Shanahan, Lynch and others, decided it wanted to keep chasing Super Bowls.
“We all knew that the York family has always been the ownership group that will put their checkbook where their mouth is,” Williams said. “They’re not scared to step out on a limb and make a guy the highest paid in history. They do that, especially for the players that it’s worth. And Nick’s obviously worth it. Anybody in the NFL would’ve paid him anything he wanted.”
Anybody would’ve, but the 49ers were the ones who had to. And it was not a guarantee that they would. The celebration at 49ers HQ on Wednesday was a sign of both things — that 49ers management did what it had to do and that the players and staffers waited a long time, more time and worrying than they expected, for all this to happen.
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(Photo: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)