Is it my imagination, or are the 49ers the subject of more draft-week trade rumors than ever this year? This could mean that John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan are feeling more comfortable in their NFL wheeling and dealing in Year 4, or that NFL reporters have too much time on their hands as they sit at home in their robes.
The last few days have placed at least six current 49ers players on the dreaded trading block, if you believe what you read. Let’s take a look at how realistic those scenarios are.
MATT BREIDA: ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler started the ball rolling – that is not a dig at Breida’s fumbling problems last year – when he said, “Running back Matt Breida is believed to be on the trading block as the odd man out in a crowded tailback crew (he would welcome the fresh start too)” as part of a longer draft update.
This is utterly believable. The 49ers do have an excess of halfbacks with long-injured Jerick McKinnon hoping to join Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Breida and Jeff Wilson Jr. And Breida, more than any of the others, would have reason to feel excluded after falling into Shanahan’s doghouse when he fumbled twice against the Falcons on Dec. 15.
I don’t know if Breida personally told Fowler about that “fresh start,” but it makes sense. The question: What could the 49ers get for him? You can’t teach breakaway speed, and Breida only recently turned 25. He comes cheap, too. He could be a nice backfield complement for some team. But it’s hard to picture the Niners netting more than a fifth-round pick for Breida. It’s the third and fourth rounds they’re really trying to sneak into.
TEVIN COLEMAN: Another member of that overpopulated backfield. Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer lobbed this one, writing, “Niners RB Tevin Coleman and Colts DB Quincy Wilson are two more who came across my desk this week.” Breer is a well-placed NFL reporter, though “came across my desk this week” is about as nebulous as it gets.
Of all the 49ers’ halfbacks, Coleman feels like the most optimal trade bait to me. He just turned 27, so he has a few more miles than the other candidates in Santa Clara. He’s the most expensive of the bunch, too, with a cap hit of close to $5 million for 2020. But Coleman has a good NFL track record, and less bold GMs like that. His contract expires in 2021, too, so he’s not a long-term risk.
I could see the 49ers getting a mid-round pick for Coleman, which sounds like a good idea. I just wonder if Shanahan would let him go. If the Niners head coach has a flaw, it’s his stubborn loyalty to some players. Think how long it took Shanahan to feature Mostert over Coleman last year, or to elevate Nick Mullens over C.J. Beathard.
Now for the Michael Lombardi headlines.
I covered Mike when he was the Raiders’ de facto GM (and accused Fox in the Henhouse) in the mid-2000s. He and I didn’t have a great relationship then, but we’ve patched things up since. Lombardi has very strong connections throughout the league, and I give credence to what he writes – including his little bombshell Monday, when he said the 49ers are actively taking offers for Kwon Alexander, Dee Ford, Jaquiski Tartt and Marquise Goodwin.
Here’s the thing. I don’t doubt that Lombardi got that information from a legitimate source. I just don’t see how relevant most of it is, because I’m not sure those four are particularly tradable.
KWON ALEXANDER: The 49ers paid/promised this man a lot of money a year ago, with $25.5 million in total guarantees. They have since restructured the deal, significantly lowering his 2020 cap hit ($13 mil to about $5 mil), but his hits for 2021 and 2022 are hefty, right around $16.5 mil for each season.
Alexander was rehabbing a torn ACL when the 49ers originally signed him, and he missed eight games with a torn pectoral muscle last year. Does he sound like someone for whom other NFL teams will beat down the door?
Here’s my basic definition of a logical athlete to trade, in any sport: A player who is worth more to other teams (or appears to be) than he is to yours. That’s where a team finds true value. I would argue that Kwon Alexander is the opposite. Most teams would see him as a talented, overpaid, injury-prone linebacker. He may well be all three of those things. But he was a difference-maker for the 49ers before he got hurt, and was a huge help in the meeting rooms even after tearing his pec. I don’t think the Niners could get enough in return to make this deal palatable.
DEE FORD: See the Kwon Alexander write-up above, and add four years to the age of the athlete. Ford also is expensive (cap hit of nearly $16 mil for 2020), and also is saddled with a thick injury file.
True, his dead money goes down substantially after 2020. Still, Ford’s combination of price and on-field availability won’t work for every organization. He’s perfect for a team that is deep enough to plan on sitting him out for a chunk of the regular season, counting on him to be ready for the playoffs. (Sort of an NFL version of NBA load management.) In other words, he’s perfect for the 49ers.
I will say this. If the 49ers are unhappy with Ford’s medical progress, they could wind up taking a deep breath and cutting him. I don’t believe this is likely. But if it’s in the cards, they could trade him at reduced value.
JAQUISKI TARTT: It’s hard to accurately assess Tartt’s worth. He has made an impact when he’s played, but has missed 19 games over the past three seasons. He’s a safety who hits hard but doesn’t intercept passes. He’s quiet but well respected.
Tartt might be appealing to other teams. He turned 28 in February, and he’s a starter on one of the NFL’s best defenses. He’s also in the final year of his contract, with a cap number of $6.275 million and a dead-money charge of just $1.5 million.
The counterpoint is that the 49ers aren’t particularly strong at safety, even with Tartt in the fold. If they let him go, they’re looking at Jimmie Ward (I love him, but you know about his injuries) and Marcell Harris as projected starters, with Tarvarius Moore as the primary backup. Not ideal. If the 49ers draft a safety in the first round, that might signal a Tartt trade. Short of that, I don’t see it.
MARQUISE GOODWIN: During his video conference with reporters Monday, Lynch acknowledged just one player he is trying to trade. That was Goodwin. My reaction: Duh.
Clearly, the wide receiver and former Olympic long jumper does not fit into the 49ers plans. He was on the field for exactly 40 snaps after Oct. 13 last year, and none after Nov. 17. He hasn’t been productive since that magical end of the 2017 season, when he emerged as Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite deep target. That feels like a lifetime ago.
So yes, of course the Niners are trying to swap Goodwin, who seems like a truly admirable person. And you should be excited about that if you’re into seventh-round draft picks, because it would be a miracle if Lynch and Shanahan got anything more for him.