INDIANAPOLIS — "The three technique drives this thing."
Those were the words of Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard, speaking to reporters Jan. 2 after wrapping up the 2019 season.
The Indy defense certainly had its moments in 2019, highlighted by a masterful performance Week 5 on the road in a win against the eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, when the Colts limited quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the high-powered Chiefs offense to a season-low 13 points.
But as the season wore on, Ballard realized he needed a little more oomph out of the defense, particularly up front — and, more specifically, from the interior of the defensive line.
So what did Ballard and the Colts do? They went out and got them a whole lotta oomph.
The team today announced it has finalized a trade to acquire All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner from the San Francisco 49ers; in exchange, Indy sends its 2020 first-round (13th-overall) pick to San Francisco.
In addition, the Colts have signed Buckner to a contract extension; terms were not immediately released.
"DeForest is a premier defensive tackle in this league and we're thrilled to add him to our roster," Ballard said. "Adding a player of his caliber demonstrates the importance and commitment of building a strong defensive front. He will bring a veteran presence to our locker room and will lead with his work ethic. DeForest's consistency as a pro on and off the field will make us a better team."
The Colts were looking for a playmaker at the three technique position, and that's exactly what they're getting in Buckner. A 6-foot-7, 295-pound Oregon product, Buckner — who turned just 26 years old on Tuesday — has started all 63 games in which he's competed since being selected by the 49ers with the seventh-overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Over than span, Buckner, a team captain for the 49ers, has collected 262 career tackles (38 for a loss) with 28.5 sacks, 11 passes defensed, seven fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles. He also has one fumble recovery for a touchdown and six career multiple-sack games.
Buckner was a huge piece to the 49ers NFC Championship team in 2019; named an Associated Press Second-Team All-Pro selection, he finished the season with 61 tackles (nine for a loss) with 7.5 sacks, two passes defensed, four fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. He was also named the recipient of the 2019 Bill Walsh Award, which is voted on by the coaching staff and given to the 49er who best represented the standard of professional excellence established by Walsh.
In three postseason contests last season, Buckner compiled 12 tackles (two for a loss) with 2.5 sacks and one forced fumble and fumble recovery apiece. He had six tackles (one for a loss) with 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hits in the 49ers' loss to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.
Buckner really burst onto the scene in 2018 when he compiled 67 tackles (17 for a loss) with 12 sacks, three passes defensed and one fumble recovery, and was selected to his first-career Pro Bowl. His 12 sacks were the most by a member of the 49ers in a single season since Aldon Smith (19.5 in 2012), the fourth-most in a single year by a 49ers defender since 2000 and the second most among NFL defensive tackles; his 17 tackles for loss ranked third in the league at his position.
A stout pass rusher, Buckner is also just as solid against the run; in 2019 he ranked 10th among qualifying interior defensive linemen with a 72.0 Pro Football Focus run defense grade, and ranked seventh in that category in 2018 (72.5), third in 2017 (71.7) and sixth as a rookie in 2016 (69.5).
Buckner adds an immediate dominating presence to a group of Colts defensive tackles that have shown plenty of flashes in recent seasons. Starter Denico Autry has a combined 12.5 sacks, 17 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles the past two years, while Grover Stewart had a career year in 2019 with 30 tackles (five for a loss) and three sacks.
Tyquan Lewis, a second-round pick out of Ohio State in 2018, will also get a chance to show what he can do after two injury-plagued seasons to begin his career.
The move to acquire Buckner means the Colts, as of now, have seven picks in the 2020 NFL Draft:
» 2nd round, 2nd pick (34th overall; from Redskins)
» 2nd round, 12th pick (44th overall)
» 3rd round, 11th pick (75th overall)
» 4th round, 16th pick (122nd overall)
» 5th round, 15th pick (160th overall)
» 6th round , 14th pick (193rd overall)
» 6th round, 18th pick (197th overall; from Dolphins via Cowboys)
See the best images of all-pro defensive lineman DeForest Buckner following being traded to the Indianapolis Colts from the San Francisco 49ers.