The New England Patriots did a deal with the Cleveland Browns this week in which they acquired wide receiver Josh Gordon and a seventh round pick in exchange for a fifth round pick. It remains to be seen how much playing time Gordon will see this weekend or even the rest of this year, but if he is able to play, his talent could be a huge upgrade for the Patriots.
San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch said over the weekend that the 49ers had called the Browns and were doing their due diligence. Both Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have regularly talked about considering any option that can potentially improve the team, and Gordon was no different.
When word got out that Patriots completed a trade for Gordon, plenty of 49ers fans were upset. The 49ers have some intriguing wide receivers, but there are question marks around the group. Lynch and Shanahan have defended their receivers regularly, and have made it clear this is the group they want to build around.
On Thursday, Lynch made an appearance on KNBR, and he was asked about the deal and what kind of value they put on players when considering trades. He did not come right out and say the exact reasons the 49ers did not do the deal, but he offered a big hint.
“[H]e’s a guy that our coaching staff had had history with. They were with him in Cleveland, and so they knew the player very well. Obviously, an unbelievable talent, obviously, had a lot of issues. So you try to weigh that, and you kind of have to say, ‘OK, what’s it worth, number one? Number two, is it something — we’ve got a really good thing in our building in terms of the guys and the type of guys we’ve got in here — and do you want to mess with that?
”And so I think like in that situation, like any situation, if there’s a chance to improve your team, you always look into it. But in certain situations, particularly when you have knowledge of a player, you sit back and you weigh it. And sometimes it’s intriguing. But then, I think sometimes, particularly when you have knowledge of someone, the more you look into it, ‘you know what, we’re going to stay away from that.’”
I did some quick research, and three 49ers coaches spent time with the Cleveland Browns at the same time as Josh Gordon. That includes head coach Kyle Shanahan (Browns OC in 2014), tight ends coach and assistant head coach Jon Embree (Browns TE coach in 2013), and wide receivers coach Mike McDaniel (Browns WR coach in 2013). Lynch’s comments would seem to make it pretty clear one or more of these three did not think Gordon’s potential was worth the off-field issues.
Some of the complaints about not trading for Gordon came up in part because it came so soon after Khalil Mack was traded to the Chicago Bears. Whenever a big name comes available, fans are quick to call for a deal to be done. Lynch said that doing these kinds of deals depends a lot on where your team is at.
“Early on in our time together we probably wouldn’t have been prone to make any trades because we had to overhaul a roster — and we needed every draft choice. Hopefully, in the future, you probably become a little more likely to do things because every draft choice, there’s a good likelihood as your roster gets better, and you’ve got, like we do, most of our starters tied up for years to come, it’s going to be hard for every draft pick to make your roster. So, I think those things are weighed.”
Jimmy Garoppolo was a blockbuster deal, and maybe we see more in the future. In the meantime, Lynch understands fans are going to push for these kinds of deals. In fact, his own family members get in on the action, regardless of whether a given player is actually available.
“One thing I do appreciate, we have a passionate fanbase and I become aware from various family members and stuff that, I get it as well, ‘Go get him!’ You know, anybody, he’s not even available. I can’t, I would love to! I understand that people get frustrated and sometimes feel like, ‘Why aren’t we getting every player that’s out there?’ But when you look at what we’ve done in two years in terms of just completely overturning the roster, we’ve been very active. And I can promise everybody out there that at any chance we can have to improve our team, we’ll look into it. And we do. And we take that very seriously.”