In news that is not remotely surprising, rumors are starting to develop regarding San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Alex Boone. Saturday morning, ESPN's Bill Williamson reported that several teams are "preparing to approach" the 49ers about Boone. Later in the morning, Matt Maiocco reported the same thing. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport was told some league executives believe Boone "might" generate trade offers, and Fo Sports 1's Mike Garafolo "could see teams aggressively" pursue a trade. Neither of those two went any further however.
While it would be disappointing to see Boone dealt, this was always one very possible outcome. The odds increased as the holdout lengthened, and at this point, it strikes me as the most likely result. Coach Harbaugh said he would not make any assumptions about how this plays out, but logic dictates this is a very strong final outcome. And of course multiple teams are going to be interested in a strong guard, who can also do good work at tackle.
There are teams with offensive line needs, and significantly more cap space than the 49ers. While it would be nice to get Boone back and into the lineup, the two sides are at loggerheads over a new contract. Maiocco previously reported Boone was not looking for huge money, but it would seem clear the 49ers are not prepared to give him enough of a bump as the situation currently stands.
If a deal is going to be made between the two sides, one or both sides is going to have to lose a little face. We've got two sides with what seem like fairly entrenched positions, and neither seems willing to budge enough at this point. That opens the door to a trade, and puts the 49ers in a position to get at least something for Boone. I've seen comments including a broad range of draft picks. Given the 49ers situation, I can't imagine more than a mid-round pick, but anything really is better than nothing in a situation like this.
The 49ers only leverage is to have him sit around and potentially return late in the season to get credit for this season on his contract. Then the two sides will be back in the same situation next year. In reality, if they are not prepared to give Boone enough of a raise, their best option is to trade him.