The San Francisco 49ers were thrown into the rumor mill Monday afternoon as word spread that the team had inquired about DeSean Jackson's availability. The Philadelphia Eagles have Jackson under contract for three more seasons, but with word that he wants an extension, and speculation about the locker room, he has been at the forefront of trade rumors. The latest rumor had the 49ers and New England Patriots calling about Jackson.
First off, this is not surprising. I would be more surprised if the 49ers did not ask about Jackson. Trent Baalke is one to do his due diligence and all options to improve the 49ers. It does not mean the team has to make a move, but naturally it gets people all aflutter about what it all means.
In my mind, aside from just kicking the tires on this, it really doesn't mean much of anything. And I'm not even thinking as much about the fact that DeSean Jackson is currently set to make $10.5 million in base salary in 2014, and the 49ers have less than $4 million in cap space. Any team can work around that with bonuses and contract extensions. And I'm not concerned about the draft picks. Money aside, when you can pick up a proven talent for mid-round draft picks, I think there is cause for considering it.
However, money can not be set aside in this case. My concern is the notion of bringing in a high priced talent that the team would in turn have to likely extend to make this all worth it. Making a move for DeSean Jackson involves going shopping in the high priced retail world. Plenty of teams will do that, but the 49ers have already acknowledged they prefer the value they can find in whole sale pricing. Last year at the Sloan Analytics Conference, Paraag Marathe went into this topic on a football analytics panel. I've embedded the video below. The entire thing is worth a watch beyond just the wholesale vs. retail discussion.
In a nutshell, the draft presents premier talent at a wholesale price, while free agency involves paying retail prices. Obviously you know a little more about what the retail option brings to the table, but you're paying a serious premium for that information. In the current salary cap era, championship teams are generally built through the draft, rather than free agency. The Seattle Seahawks did invest quite a bit in free agency last year, but they were able to do so because they hit several home runs in the draft with the likes of Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson and so many more. Their strong drafting put them in a position where they could invest more heavily in free agency. It was the smart drafting that put them in a position to win that championship.
The 49ers are operating with a similar mindset. They are not a team to bring in expensive outside talent via free agency or trades. And no, Antoine Bethea does not count as expensive outside talent. He has been the 49ers biggest investment this offseason with his $22 million deal. However, the guarantees are fairly limited, and the team remains in a position to draft a safety of the future. If they find a young safety who seems set to develop into a better option, they can get out of the Bethea deal in the coming seasons.
The 49ers might look into guys like DeSean Jackson, but they're not going to pull the trigger on them. That isn't just retail pricing they're dealing with, that's high end retail pricing. We have seen over and over again that this team does not look to that kind player in free agency and via trade. Anquan Boldin turned out to be worth more than the 49ers paid, but again, they found a bargain, and took advantage of it.
Sometimes it can be fun to play Madden and turn off the reality switch for a while, but when we come back to reality, and really assess how Trent Baalke and Paraag Marathe do business, it becomes very easy to realize this kind of deal is not going to happen. Sorry to say, I'm the pah-ty poop-ah.