Evaluating the 49ers draft-week trade rumors

Are the 49ers really trying to move Kwon Alexander?
(Photo: Associated Press)

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.

This article has 69 Comments

  1. ‘Tis the season to believe none of what you hear, and half of what you see.

    Shanny trusts Coleman. Breida, not so much. A 5th seems kind of low. Might be worth a 4th to a team like the Jets.

    Yea, Alexander’s mention was a red flag for a bogus report due to his restructure.

    Moving on from Ford would mean they’ve identified a new ride that revs up the pass rush. Chaisson?

    Tartt is too smart and Harris isn’t the answer as a starter. That’s why they’ll target one in the draft, but it’ll probably be on day 3.

    Goodwin say goodbye!?‍♂️

  2. I don’t think they move any of them till training camp is over unless they are getting a second or third round pick which I highly doubt, its not worth it at this point. They have plenty of late round picks so… If the season is shortened familiarity really becomes important.

    1. Undercenter
      Don’t overlook the fact the 9ers could package Goodwin, or Breida, as part of a draft day trade.

    1. Reads like a Seb plan, but I have one question. In what fantasyland does Snyder wanna do Shanny any favors?

      1. Hey, even I would not give up 2 first round picks for only second round picks. and who knows if they would even have a 2021 season.
        Anyways, they may get Joey Bosa next season, so Young may not be needed

        1. Two first rounder’s isn’t too bad for franchise DE and a still very good OT is it? #13 and #25+ in 1st Rd picks wouldn’t be bad for this haul and we wouldn’t have to spend a high pick for an OT this year ..

      2. I think they do each other favors. We get rid of stuff we don’t want and they get rid of a whiny Trent Williams and his last year deal, and they get a fair re-boot which would go beyond Young.

    2. Nick Bosa and Chase Young would be a nightmare for opposing offensive coordinators, probably for years to come. But that’s a LOT of capital to tie up in two edge rushers. I believe Lynch when he says it was worth trading those 2020 picks, but I’m not sure he wants to make it an annual event.

      1. Somehow they can these 2 to be affordable on rookie contract’s can’t they? Can’t they?! And we don’t need 1st round picks when they seem to be doing great with player’s like Greenlaw and Kittle catches in their later round findings. Give them a few more 1st rounders, with a couple of SB’s they’re like 2nd rounders anyways! ?

    1. With Gronk to the Bucs, now is the time for the 49ers to be enquiring about trading for OJ Howard.

      1. Could be but I don’t know if he fits as a blocker and with what he will cost moving forward. He counts for about 3.5 million this year and they will have to exercise his option year at quite a bit more money to keep him beyond one season. Not out of the question but Tampa will want more than a 5th for him I would guess and the 49ers would be trading 2021 picks to get it done.

        Personally in my non expert opinion, I don’t think the 49ers are looking to trade for players as much as they will look to try and trade down with both first rounders mainly because if they don’t trade down from 13 they may not have a real chance to acquire extra picks. At 31 there is a possibility that no one is interested in trading up and even if they are it likely only nets a 4th round pick at best to trade into the second. Best case scenario at this point and reading between the lines of what Lynch said yesterday, I think they will try to move that 13th overall unless a player like Brown slides and possibly Jeudy because he fits everything Shanahan wants in a WR. If those two are off the board I think they are trading down and may do it even if those two are still there. As good as this roster is there are still depth issues and contracts that will have to be removed in the next couple of years and no better way to prepare for that than getting some day two picks.

        1. Look at the TEs they have been linked with. None are great blockers. In fact, none are really in line TEs. All flex TEs. They are looking for a complementary skill set to Kittle, not a replica.

      2. I agree Scooter. Some are saying Bredia should be involved in a trade for Howard, but I think Tevin Coleman would be the better choice.

              1. That still does not mean the 49ers will trade him Razor.
                Another thing to keep in mind is that Coleman fits the pass-catching RB that Brady works with.

    2. Given how much the Niners want a second tight end to pair with Kittle, I’d kick the tires on either Cameron Brate or OJ Howard; probably Howard since he has the cheaper contract. Wonder if it would have to be a draft pick, or if there is some player that could be used (which would be the preference)?

      1. Pot…Kettle
        TB may be interested in 9er RB Breida? Peyton Barber signed with the Redskins and Ronald Jones is 32nd amongst all running backs in the expert consensus rankings.

        1. I like it! Breida for OJ Howard would definitely play for me (though, if we can change it to Tevin Coleman and have the Bucs sign off, that would be better from a cost perspective).

      2. I like Dwelley. They still need to get another TE, though, unless Hurd can come back healthy.

    3. Meh. Florida gets one more retiree. Bucs pushing all their cards on the table, when there’s likely to be no table.

  3. Well, I am glad that JL advertised the fact that they are in business for trade backs, so other teams may be weighing options.
    I am glad he mentioned he was willing to trade Marquise Goodwin away, so teams may want to use him as a bargaining chip.

    1. If Shanny wants to stay ahead of the pack, upgrade depth along with keeping the roster versatile; he should trade back. Twice. Two times devoured!

  4. Welcome back Phil. I realize you are probably only going to be here for a short time until somebody else is found due to your busy schedule, but let me just say you are a breath of fresh air after a number of years of bad opinions and little to no information emanating from this blog. Thanks for taking it over for however long you are around.

  5. Phil Barber
    * I’m enjoying your articles also….Nice change from the previous click bait.
    QUESTION: Now that you’ve taken over the blog from Grant, can we expect you to change the brand name and make it the Phil Barber 49er Sports Blog?

    1. Indeed. There is something to be said for interesting content versus scandals , rumors and preposterous scenarios (trade Jimmy G for Brady) . I am pretty tired of the TMZing of everything.

  6. Open question, which I ask because I have absolutely no idea but think some of you might:

    OJ Howard vs. Evan Engram

    Who’d be better to have?

    1. OJ Howard is a coverage nightmare, but he also has the dropsies and is disengaged too often. Neither are much in terms of run blocking, though OJ is better at it (and at least has the size to line up in-line).

      Engram’s injury history is an issue, and he is definitely more of a TE that should line up in the slot or outside; absolutely not an in-line player. But I think a much better route runner than OJ Howard. I think Engram is a little cheaper also.

      Both have issues. I think it’s pretty equal, and I would probably flip a coin (with maybe the smallest of leans toward Engram).

    2. Breaking news on this topic: Pats trade Gronk to Bucs for a 4th rounder is nearly a done deal.

    3. Engram has looked better than Howard so far in their respective careers, imo. I would prefer Engram.

      1. Engram had 1 good season with Eli at the helm. OJ had to muddle through with Winston.

        1. One thing you can never say about Winston is that he doesn’t give his receivers an opportunity. He makes a lot of bad decisions, but he also trusts his receivers to make plays. It is why despite the results, Evans and Godwin have been top statistical receivers. So having Winston as his QB is absolutely no excuse for Howard’s relatively lackluster production.

          Engram on the other hand has actually had three good years, not one, but the past two have been hampered by injuries. He was on pace for 88 catches and 934 yards last year before he got injured. He finished 2018 on a tear as well. He has been significantly better than Howard to date… just hasn’t been able to stay healthy.

          1. I agree that there is plenty of volume with Winston but that wasn’t the case last year. OJ saw a dramatically reduced target share. I think both guys can make a contribution to the niners in2 TE sets. Both guys have physical tools which would be matchup problems for LBs. I personally favor OJ but it is a slight favor.

            1. There absolutely was plenty of volume from Winston last year. Just not to Howard. Not sure why you blame Winston for this and not Howard. I’m all for the 49ers exploring a trade for Howard and not trying to suggest he doesn’t have talent, but to me there is no argument to be had as to which guy (Engram or Howard) has been the better pro to date. It is clearly Engram.

  7. I am surprised the Niners aren’t actively shopping Dante Pettis. With some razzle/dazzle and few drops of snake oil a third rounder could have been had. You can add Nick Mullens to that same equation.

    1. Idk Kato. Unless that trade partner is Elway channeling Seb I don’t think anyone is going to give a third for someone with how many snaps? He did look good congratulating Breida on that scamper to open the Browns game though.

      1. DP performed pretty well the second half of his rookie season. That is the selling point. Oh, and speaking of snake oil, the drug Dr. Trump has been peddling hydroxychloroquine has been labeled dangerous and unsafe by several healthcare agencies. In fact more than a dozen people have died from experimental treatments. Can a sitting president be tried for Manslaughter ? Trump: “What do you have to lose “

    2. Respectfully, BruceLee, I don’t think the 49ers could get anything close to a third-rounder for Pettis at this point. Too much videotape from 2019, too many frustrated statements from Kyle Shanahan. I think they’d be fortunate to get a sixth.

        1. Like Witherspoon, you tell him and Pettis that this is the year they have to show case what you want to be.
          Both guys need to come into camp in great shape and prove they deserve to be on the field.
          Both these guys are young enough to turn it around but they have to want it and show case it. They cost the 49ers a lot of draft capital so give them one more year to prove it.
          I think Witherspoon has had bad luck with injuries and confidence. Pettis, to me, doesn’t love the game of football as much as he needs to.

          1. I think Witherspoon issues are more than just mental. He lacks ball skills and also plays timid. I’m not sure if that’s fixable for a guy entering his 4th season. I wouldn’t give up on Pettis yet, but I think it’s time to move on from Witherspoon.

  8. BTW, for those participating in the first round mock tomorrow at 3 pm PST, we should post in whatever the most recent blog entry is (in case Phil posts more blogs between now and then).

    1. Pot, a poster named j offered to participate. I would be happy to let him have the Seahawks.

  9. HR3 told #PFTPM that three teams have been “constantly” contacting him: The Raiders, the Broncos, and the 49ers.

    1. I wouldn’t be mad with Ruggs at 13 at all because it would be fun to see him in Shanahan’s offense, but I also think it is too high for him. As others have said, I think he is more a complementary piece. I appreciate he will help open up things for others, but imo taking a WR that high they have to be a guy that not only opens up things for others but also is a high volume target guy. I don’t see Ruggs being that.

      1. Two things. Production and foundation. Where was the production, and how is he a foundational piece?

  10. The constant links to flex TEs makes me think the 49ers are being a bit loose with the truth when it comes to Hurd’s potential return. The type of players they are being linked with would seem like the exact type of skill set they were hoping Hurd would provide by year 2.

    1. Yep. I’ve never believed Hurd would see the field again after the report surfaced that he couldn’t even fly on the plane.

      1. He could be the wildcard if healthy. But back surgery for football players, not good.
        Taylor as well. Way too many surgeries to expect him to bounce back.
        We definitely need to leave the draft with a WR, maybe 2.

  11. Maiocco’s mock draft without his hat on:

    31)Ezra Cleveland(OT)

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