My top 49ers Trade Targets for the 2019 Offseason

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Fooch's note: This is a fun look at trade targets, so I thought I'd give it a bump to the front page.

NFL trades for 2019 can't be officially consummated and announced until the new League Year starts on March 13th. But, we usually see reports of trades between teams being agreed to starting as early as a few days after the end of the Super Bowl as teams look to optimize their rosters and clarify their needs prior to being able to sign free agents once the new League Year starts. The Super Bowl is only 6 days away, so I thought this would be a good time to look into possible trade targets for the 49ers for the 2019 offseason.

When I'm trying to identify potential trade targets, I start by scoping out which teams are projected to have the biggest issues staying under the salary cap when the new League Year starts in early March. If those teams can't convince several of their highest-paid players to rework their contracts in order to lower their cap hits, then they're almost certainly going to need to trade or cut some of their vet players - including 1, or more, of their better performers. The invaluable folks at the OverTheCap website (LINK) keep a regularly updated estimated 2019 payroll list for all 32 teams.

Here are the 12 teams with the lowest amount of cap space (according to OTC):

1. Eagles: Cap Space = -$14.45M (Philadelphia is over the cap by ~$14.45M)
Jags: Cap Space = -$3.5M
Vikings: Cap Space = $6.65M
Bucs: Cap Space = $12.2M
5. Dolphins: Cap Space = $14.0M
Bears: Cap Space = $14.2M
Falcons: Cap Space = $18.5M
Saints: Cap Space = $18.78M
Panthers: Cap Space = $19.1M
10. Steelers: Cap Space = $20.7M
Pats: Cap Space = $21.1M
Skins: Cap Space = $21.4M

The second thing I look for is teams that are likely to be actively or passively tanking at some point in the coming season. These teams almost always have a new or 2nd-year head coach or GM, or both; and little or no hope of ending up with anything close to a winning record over the next 1 or 2 seasons. IMO, here are the NFL teams that currently fall into this category (teams most likely looking to massively turn over their rosters are listed first):
1. Dolphins
2. Raiders
3. Cardinals
4. Bengals
5. Giants

You may have noticed that the only team that appears in both categories, at or very near the top in each, is the Dolphins. That's where I began my search for the top trade targets for the 49ers.

Finally, I always end up reviewing the rosters of all of the teams - searching for a player that has likely worn out his welcome with the team they're under contract for in the upcoming season. The players to target in this category are guys that are still productive on the field and whose remaining salaries, after a trade, wouldn't be onerous to the 49ers payroll - in terms of fully guaranteed payments & projected salary cap hits for the current & successive seasons.

Following this path, I identified 6 players, and 7 possible trades, that I think will benefit the 49ers for at least the 2019 season. I'll start by posting a spreadsheet, listing the 6 players & my 7 proposed trades. My detailed explanations for each trade are given after the spreadsheet.

Before I get to the spreadsheet, here are some notes & definitions that should help:
1. I only included trades where that was at least some plausible reason(s) why the targeted team would consider trading the specific player.
2. I only included players that are good fits for the current 49ers roster, that seem likely to available at a reasonable trade cost to the 49ers, and that would have an existing contract that limits them to an acceptable amount of fully guaranteed money (from the 49ers POV) over the next 1-4 seasons.
3. On the following chart, the "49ers Max Trade Offer" column gives my upper limit to how much the 49ers should offer in trade for said player. An asterisk "*" next to a draft pick means it is a conditional draft pick.
4. On the following chart, the "49ers Cost" column gives the maximum amount the 49ers would owe the player over the next 3 seasons, if he achieves all of his contractual milestones. A "?" signifies that the player isn't currently under contract for that season.
5. On the following chart, the "Guaranteed Cost" column gives the amount of money the 49ers would owe the player after the trade, even if they cut him before the start of the 2019 regular season.
6. On the following chart, the "2019-21 Net Cap Savings" column gives the net amount of cap money the player's existing team would save for each of the 2019, '20 & '21 seasons after the trade. Net amount = Compensation minus Dead Money.
7. On the following chart, the "AGE" column gives each player's age on Sept. 1, 2019, roughly the beginning of the 2019 regular season, in a YY.ddd format. So, 24.312 signifies an age of 24 years + 312 days.

NAME POS Team 49ers Max Trade Offer 49ers Cost: 2019 / '20 / '21 Guaranteed Cost 2019-21 Net Cap Savings AGE Gms/Strts 2016-18
Jalen Ramsey CB Jags 2019-R2 + 2020-R1 & R6 $3.635M / $9.5M / ? $3.635M $3.63M / $9.5M / NA 24.312 48 / 48
Blake Bortles QB Jags 2020-R5 for Jags 2019-R2 $6.5M-$8.5M / $0 / $0 $6.5M $11M / $1M / NA 27.126 45 / 44
Jalen Ramsey + B. Bortles
Jags 2020-R1 & R6 $10.135M / $9.5M / ? $10.135M $14.63M / $10.5M / NA

Patrick Peterson CB Cards 2019-R3 + 2020-R4* $11.25M / $12.55M / ? $250K $10.6M / $12.6M / NA 29.052 48 / 48
Antonio Brown WR Steelers 2019-R3 + 2020-R3* $15.125M / $11.3M / $12.5M $2.5M** $1.1M / $11.3M / $12.5M 31.053 44 / 44
Josh Sitton OG Dolphins 2019-R6 $5M / ? / ? $2M $7M / NA / NA 33.077 27 / 26
Sean Lee ILB Cowboys 2019-R7 + 2020-R6* $7M / ? / ? $0 $7M / NA / NA 33.041 33 / 31

1. Jalen Ramsey: CB, Jags (6.01, 208) (DOB=10/24/94) FSU, Drafted: 2016- 1.05
LINK to ProFootballReference stat page
LINK to PlayerProfilerCom profile page
Salary Cap numbers (after trade): 2019= $3.635M (guaranteed); '20= ~$9.5M (5th-year option (guaranteed for injury after 5/3/19))
Jags Net Cap Savings in 2019-21 (after trade): 2019= $3.63M; 2020= ~$9.5M; 2021= N/A
I can't say for sure, but it seems plausible that Ramsey's off-field antics and declining performances over the past 10 months have rubbed Tom Coughlin, the Jags GM, & the team owner the wrong way. The Jags need a franchise QB and they have the 2nd worst 2019 salary cap situation of any team in the NFL. They're currently projected to open the new League Season at ~$3.5M over the cap limit. They'll need to clear ~$12M in cap space just to be able to sign all of their potential 7 picks in the April Draft. That's going to call for some significant combination of restructuring of current contracts and trading or cutting vets under contract for 2019. If they do feel like Ramsey is more trouble than he's worth, he should be able to bring back valuable draft picks for the Jags. By trading Ramsey, the Jags would have $3.796M in dead money on their 2019 cap, but they would save a net of $3.634M in 2019 and ~$9.5M in 2020.

What would Ramsey cost in a trade? My best guess is that the upper limit of the cost would be a similar package that the Bears gave the Raiders in the Khalil Mack trade back in early September. In that trade, Oakland received Chicago's 2019 & '20 Round 1 picks and Oakland had to swap their 2020 Round 2 & 5 picks for Chicago's Round 3 & 6 picks. Adding & subtracting approximate pick values for the 2020 picks involved in this trade, the Bears effectively got Mack for a 2019 late-Round 1 pick + a 2020 mid-Round 2 pick: a steal in retrospect.

Now, Mack is a historically transcendent performer at a position of extreme scarcity & need in the NFL (most would say it's the 2nd most important position on a team, behind only the QB), while Jalen Ramsey is only a top 5 - 10 CB in the current NFL. So, Ramsey's value shouldn't be as high as Mack's. OTOH, that's somewhat balanced by the fact that Ramsey's salary costs over his first 2 seasons with his new team will be relatively much lower than Mack's was projected to be when he was traded. Mack was guaranteed to make $13.8M in 2018 & the Bears had to project he'd cost at least $20M in 2019 - for a 2-yr total of at least $34M. Ramsey is guaranteed only $3.6M in 2019 & will make ~$10M in 2020 (depending on what the 5th-yr option will be set at for CBs next year) - for a 2-yr total cost of ~$14M. That means Ramsey will cost ~$20M less during his first 2 seasons with the 49ers than Mack was projected to cost the Bears. Adding it all up, IMO, Ramsey's trade cost should be no more than ~90% of what it cost the Bears to acquire Mack. Since Mack cost the Bears a late Round 1 + a future mid-Round 2, the 49ers should offer the Jags no more than their 2019 very early Round 2 draft pick + their 2020 Round 1 pick as the centerpieces for Ramsey. They might need to include some swapping of a later round pick, or 2, to complete the deal.

2. Blake Bortles: QB, Jags (6.05, 235) (DOB=4/28/92) UCF, Drafted: 2014- 1.03
LINK to ProFootballReference stat page
Salary Cap numbers (after trade): 2019= $6.5-8.5M ($6.5M guar.); '20= ~$18M
Jags Net Cap Savings in 2019-21 (after trade): 2019= $11M; 2020= $1M; 2021= N/A
This would be a salary-dump trade in the same manner that went down between Houston & Cleveland back in March of 2017 when Cleveland took on Brock Osweiler's contract in exchange for Houston's Round 2 pick in the following year's (2018) Draft. The pick ended up as the #4 pick in Round 2 (#36 overall) in 2018, which gave Cleveland a big win in the trade. Houston also included their 2018 Round 6 pick and got back Cleveland's Round 4 pick, so the deal basically broke down to the equivalent of: Osweiler + Houston's Round 2 pick for Cleveland's Round 5 pick. The cap hit that Cleveland took on in the trade was $13M (his guaranteed salary), while Houston converted a guaranteed $16M cap hit in 2017 down to only $9M (the remaining prorated amount of Osweiler's signing bonus). The move saved Houston $7M vs. their salary cap for the 2017 season.

My proposed trade for Bortles is very similar to the Osweiler trade I just described. The main differences are that the Jags would be gaining $4M more in net cap savings ($11M vs. $7M) than the Texans gained in 2017, while the 49ers would be taking a dead money cap hit in 2019 that is 50% less than Cleveland's dead money hit was in 2017.

To summarize:
March 2017 Texans-Browns trade:
Browns: got Houston's 2018 Round 2 pick & took on a $13M $16M in cap hit for 2017.
Texans: traded Osweiler for $7M $10M in net cap savings in 2017 (including a $9M dead money cap hit) + Browns 2018 Round 5 pick.

My proposed March 2019 49ers-Jags trade:
49ers: get Jags 2020 Round 2 pick & takes on $6.5M in cap hit for 2019.
Jags: trade Bortles for $11M in net cap savings in 2019 (including a $10M dead money cap hit) + 49ers 2020 Round 5 pick.

Alternatively, the Jags would receive only $6.5M in net cap savings in 2019 by trading Bortles to the 49ers instead of simply cutting him before March 13th

3. Jalen Ramsey & Blake Bortles:
Salary Cap numbers (after trade): 2019= $10.135M ($10.135M guar.); '20= ~$9.5M; 2021= ?
Jags Net Cap Savings in 2019-21 (after trade): 2019= $14.635M; 2020= ~$10.5M; 2021= N/A
By trading for both Ramsey & Bortles in a combined deal, the 49ers should only have to include their 2020 Round 1 pick as the centerpiece of the deal. That's because the 2019 Round 2 pick the 49ers would be offering in a standalone trade for Ramsey is mostly canceled out by the 2020 Round 2 pick that the 49ers would have received from the Jags in a standalone Blake Bortles trade. Alternatively, if the Jags want a more immediate return with a known 2019 draft slot (#36 overall), I'd be fine with the 49ers offering something like this in the combined trade: 2019 Round 2 pick + 2020 Round 4 pick.

Here are the full details of my proposed Ramsey + Bortles trade:
49ers: get Ramsey + Bortles & takes on a guaranteed $10.135M cap hit for 2019.
Jags: get 49ers 2020 Round 1 & Round 5 picks; & clear $14.635M in net cap savings in 2019 & ~$10.5M in 2020
Jags: get 49ers 2019 Round 2 pick + 2020 Round 4 pick & clear the same cap space.

With Jimmy G back and starting, and the addition of several free agents + a very high 2019 Round 1 draft pick added to the roster in March & April, the 49ers 2020 Round 1 draft pick should be no better than #15 overall - and could easily be a pick in the late-20s. Is there anybody that wouldn't give up that draft pick for a minimum of 2 guaranteed seasons of Jalen Ramsey's services?

4. Patrick Peterson: CB, Cards (6.01, 203) (DOB=7/11/90) LSU, Drafted: 2011 -1.05
LINK to ProFootballReference stat page
LINK to PlayerProfilerCom profile page
Salary Cap numbers (after trade): 2019= $11.25M ($250K guar.); '20= $12.55M; 2021=?
Cards Net Cap Savings in 2019-21 (after trade): 2019= $10.6M; 2020= $12.6M; 2021= N/A
The Cards take a minuscule $1.27M cap hit in dead money for 2019 if they trade PP - while clearing $10.6M in net savings. They're not in a salary cap bind, but they are beginning year 2 of a full rebuild (& it's year 1 for the new coaching staff) and need a ton of Day 1 & 2 draft picks over the next 2 drafts (especially on offense) to bring their woeful roster up closer to at least league average. The Cards also should be assuming that Peterson won't be on the roster in 2 years from now, prior to the 2021 season, when they plan on being playoff contenders for the first time in 5 years. It's best for them to save as much cap money as possible over the next 2 seasons and roll it all over into future cap years. At the same time they can be developing and playing some young CBs who will still be team-controlled in 2022. The 1 sticking point in this proposed trade is that the Cards are likely to want to trade Peterson outside the NFC or, if that isn't possible, outside the NFC West. John Lynch & the 49ers will have to be a clearly top bidder for Peterson's services, and he should be a desired player throughout the league, if the Cards do decide to trade him. A 2019 very early Round 3 draft pick plus a conditional 2020 Round 4 pick might beat the crowd.

5. Antonio Brown: WR, Steelers (5.10, 180) (DOB=7/10/88) CMU, Drafted: 2010 -6.195
LINK to ProFootballReference stat page
LINK to PlayerProfilerCom profile page
Salary Cap numbers (after trade): 2019= $15.125M ($0 guar.); '20= $11.3M; '21= $12.5M
Steelers Net Cap Savings in 2019-21 (after trade): 2019= $1.1M (before 3/18); 2020= $11.3M; 2021= $12.5M
If the Steelers trade AB before March 18th, they'll take a dead money hit vs. their 2019 salary cap of $21.12M. But they'll save a net of $1.1M in 2018 vs. what his cap charge would have been if he plays for them in 2019. If he's traded on, or after, March 18th, those numbers change, because that's when AB is owed a $2.5M roster bonus. To sum it up here is how an AB trade or cut will affect the Steelers' 2019 salary cap:
Traded or Cut before March 18th: Dead Money = $21.12M; Net Cap Savings = $1.1M
Traded or Cut after March 17th: Dead Money = $23.62M; Net Cap Savings = -$1.4M

Many in the Steelers org reportedly feel that they can't keep Brown on the team beyond the middle of June, due to the way he behaved during the preperation for Pittsburgh's final game of the 2018 season. The team president, a Rooney family member, stated publicly last week that he found it hard to envision a scenario where AB would be on the roster by the time the 2019 regular season starts. Because of things like this, as well as multiple stories from named & unnamed former teammates describing how much of a distraction AB was to the team over the last several years, the Steelers aren't very likely to fair value in any AB trade. His advancing age (turns 31 in July) also will lower his market price, IMO.

I believe it would be a substantial risk for the 49ers to trade for AB. Personal character & team unity issues are the main risks, while his age is also a concern. So, I would only advocate the 49ers trading for AB if they can minimize the risk they would suffer if he implodes off, or on, the field. There's little or no risk to the 49ers in terms of money owed AB after a trade. At most, the 49ers would only owe AB $2.5M in guaranteed compensation (if a trade is completed before March 18th). If he becomes a problem in the locker room, they can cut or trade him at any point over the next 3 seasons without taking on any dead money on their salary cap, beyond what he's already earned on a per game basis for that season - assuming he's healthy enough to play when they cut him. The risk the 49ers will take, is the cost of acquiring AB in a trade. If they can get that cost down to an acceptable level, then I think a trade becomes quite desirable.

The Steelers are reportedly asking for a Round 1 pick in the 2019 Draft as a starting point, but I wouldn't want the 49ers to offer anything close to that for AB. I don't want the 49ers to offer more than their 2019 Round 3 pick (the 3rd pick in Round 3 & #67 overall) plus a conditional 2020 Round 3 pick. The condition would be something along the lines of the percentagle of offensive snaps that AB plays for the 49ers in 2019. For example, if AB plays more than 60% of the snaps, the Steelers get the 2020 Round 3 pick, but if he plays less than that, they only get a 2020 Round 6 pick.

Let's look at 3 recent trades of vets for draft picks to see why I think that is a reasonable top limit for the 49ers to offer.
Trade 1: (10/22/18) Cowboys trade 2019 Round 1 to Oakland for WR Amari Cooper;
Trade 2: (3/8/18) Rams trade 2018 Rnd 5 to Denver for CB Aqib Talib;
Trade 3: (2/23/18) Rams trade 2018 Rnd 4 + (equivalent of) 2019 Rnd 2 to KC for CB Marcus Peters

Let's examine these trades in reverse order. At the time of the Aqib Talib trade, Talib was widely seen as a top 10-20 CB in the NFL. He was much older than Peters (32 yrs old vs. 25), but less than 1 yr older than AB is now. Talib's on-field performance had yet to begin to show much sign of decline due to age. He also was owed a lot more money than Peters was for 2018-19 ($19M vs. $10.9M), the 2 remaining seasons on his contract, though his salary was below average for a veteran NFL CB with many years of top performances in his recent past. Talib should have been worth something in the range of a 2019 Round 2 or 3 pick, based on his on-field performance & relatively cheap 2-year salary (none of it guaranteed). Why weren't the Broncos able to get anything close to that for him? IMO, it was because Talib had a well-known reputation for being difficult to handle – and he had a few past on-field issues that troubled most teams. Advancing age was also a major issue for many teams.

When traded, Marcus Peters was widely seen as 1 of the top 5-10 CBs in the NFL, the top playmaker at that position, and he still had 2 full years left on his initial 5-yr rookie contract. He was incredibly cheap for an elite CB, he was owed only $1.74M in 2018 & ~$9.1M in 2019 (if his new team exercised his 5th-year option) – for a total of ~$10.9M. By any performance, age (just turned 25 before he was traded), or cost measure, he should have been worth, at a minimum, a Round 1 pick in 2018 + a Round 2 through 4 pick in 2019. Why couldn’t the Chiefs get anything close to that for him? Because it was already well known within league circles that Peters was an extremely disruptive presence for his coaches & teammates, and was a guy the Chiefs were afraid could blow up at any moment if they continued to employ him.

Amari Cooper, especially in contrast to Peters & Talib, was widely seen as a good locker room guy, easy to handle & having no off-field red flags in his past. When he was traded, Cooper was also very much younger (24 yrs & 4 months) than Antonio Brown will be when the 2019 regular season starts (31 yrs & 3 months) and Cooper was known to be much cheaper for the Cowboys over their next ~1.6 seasons than AB will cost his new team over his next 1.6 seasons. Specifically, the Cowboys owed Cooper ~$14.5M for the remainder of his 2018 season + the entire 2019 season (if they exercised his 5th-year rookie option); while AB’s new team will owe him ~$22.3M for the 2019 season & the first 10 games of the 2020 season ($20.8M if he is traded after March 17th).

Finally, the Steelers have another major problem in trying to extract the maximum amount of compensation in an AB trade. A problem that the Chiefs, Broncos & Raiders did NOT have when shoppng Peters, Talib, & Cooper. Every team knows that the Steelers are close to desperate to trade AB before training camp starts in July - and would overwhelmingly prefer to trade him before March 18th, when they would owe him a guaranteed $2.5M roster bonus payment. KC, Denver & Oakland did not have any such universally-known hard deadlines when shopping their 3 players. This should severely hamper the Steelers in trade negotiations and, IMO, prevent them from getting a 2019 Round 1 draft pick offer from any team interested in AB.

Adding all these things up, it seems clear to me that a 2019 late Round 1 draft pick (what the Cowboys gave up for Cooper) is the absolute most that the Steelers can expect to get for AB between now & April 25th. Remember, all reports that I've seen clearly state that the Cowboys were the only team that offered the Raiders a Round 1 draft pick for Cooper when they were shopping him. While a 2019 early Round 3 draft pick (roughly the equivalent of what the Rams gave up for Marcus Peters 1 year ago) is the absolute least they can expect.

My suggested trade offer for AB falls between those 2 extremes. If the 49ers were to trade their 2019 Round 3 pick (#67 overall) + 2020 Round 3 pick (assuming the conditions were met), that would add up to an approximate value of 315 points in 2019 using the venerable Jimmy Johnson trade value chart (depending on how you discount the 2020 pick due to future value). That would put the Steelers total equivalent return in the hypothetical trade as a late-2nd round pick in the 2019 draft (the 26th or 27th pick in Round 2 or 58th/59th overall). That's the max that I think the 49ers should be willing to give up for AB this offseason.

6. Josh Sitton: OG, Dolphins (6.03, 320) (DOB=6/16/86) UCF, Drafted: 2008- 4.135
LINK to ProFootballReference stat page
LINK to PlayerProfilerCom profile page
Dolphins Net Cap Savings in 2019-21 (after trade): 2019= $7M; 2020= N/A; 2021= N/A
Salary Cap numbers (after trade): 2019= $5M ($2M guar.)
Sitton was a guy that I, and many other NN commenters, wanted the 49ers to sign as a FA last offseason. He had a long history of being a durable & above avg performer at OG for the Packers & Bears and his style of play fit him well for the 49ers offensive blocking schemes. Surprisingly, Sitton was only able to snag a mid-level 2-year deal from Miami that only guaranteed him $8.45M (and allowed him to earn up to $13.5M). Sitton tore the rotator cuff in his shoulder during the 1st game of the 2018 season & was placed on season-ending IR 4 days later. I have no current info to share on Sitton's shoulder, but based on what I know about rotator cuff injuries, Sitton should be well into his rehab schedule for the injury. Rehab normally takes 5 to 7 months following surgery. Last I heard, Sitton was scheduled to have his surgery near the end of Sept. 2018. That means he should be finished with rehab, & ready to resume full activities, somewhere between late-February through early-May.

Sitton turns 33 in June, but he's only under contract for the 2019 season (at a very reasonable figure) so age shouldn't be a concern. Prior to 2018, he was consistently rated a top 10 OG in the league between 2012-17. PFF rated him the #5 OG in 2017 (at 86.0). Andrew Norwell, the consensus top IOL available during last year's FA, was PFF’s #3 OG in 2017 (at 88.8). Sitton would be a huge upgrade at RG for the 49ers – especially in pass protection.

Miami only saves a net $3M if they trade/cut Sitton this offseason, so why would they trade him? All the reports I've seen in the past few weeks point to Miami planning to preemptively clean house in 2019 when the new coaching staff gets finalized. Miami wants to reset the culture, clear as much money off the payroll to allow them to rollover large amounts into the 2020-22 seasons, and set themselves up with a top 5 draft pick in 2020 so they can get 1 of the top QBs available in what should be a very good QB class. I think the 49ers can snag Sitton from Miami for something like a 2020 Round 5 draft pick.

7. Sean Lee: ILB, Cowboys (6.02, 245) (DOB=7/22/86) Penn State, Drafted: 2010- 2.55
LINK to ProFootballReference stat page
LINK to PlayerProfilerCom profile page
Salary Cap numbers (after trade): ($0 guaranteed); 2019=$7M
Cowboys Net Cap Savings in 2019-21 (after trade): 2019= $7M; 2020= N/A; 2021= N/A
The Cowboys love Lee, but he's struggled with injuries the past 2 seasons and has lost his starting job to the younger, better, & much cheaper rookie Leighton Vander Esch. It got so bad for Lee that he couldn't even make it onto the 45-Man game day rosters during the last 3 games of the Cowboy's regular season (he did play sparingly in the Cowboys 2 playoff games) after he was reinstated to the active roster from IR. Lee did get on the game-day roster, & played, during the Cowboys' 2 playoff games in January, but he only saw a handful of snaps in both games. It will cost Dallas $10M vs. their cap in 2019 if they keep him around, but only $3.08M if they trade or cut him in the offseason. Dallas's cap situation isn't as bad as it has been in previous offseasons, but they can't be "wasting" money on a 33-year old backup ILB who will have trouble making it onto the game-day roster in 2019. They have several big-money contract extensions or huge 1-year salary increases they need to pay out to key starters over the next 16 months (Amari, Dexter Lawrence, Dak, Zeke, I'm fairly certain the Cowboys will cut Lee if they can't find a trade partner for him. There's no hurry, they owe him his remaining signing bonus portion no matter when they cut/trade him and his salary doesn't start counting vs. their 2019 cap until the regular season starts.

I think Lee can be an upgrade for the 49ers roster at ILB. At best, he would be the starter at WILL, at worst he would be the primary backup at both MIKE & WILL. If the 49ers do have to trade for him, it would likely be after the draft & before preseason games start - and it should cost them no more than a 2020 Round 6 or 7 pick. Best case will be if Dallas cuts him after the draft (out of loyalty for his long service), so they he has a better chance to land a roster spot on 1 of his preferred new teams. Staying on the field has long been an issue for Lee. Thanks to hamstring injuries, Lee appeared in only seven games in 2018 and was eventually eclipsed by rookie Leighton Vander Esch. The veteran finished out with a career-low 37 tackles and had just half a sack. Lee was sensational for the Cowboys earlier in his career and still provides veteran leadership to the defense, so it won’t be an easy call for the team. Lee managed four interceptions in both the 2011 and 2013 seasons. He missed all of 2014 with a torn ACL, but bounced back to earn a Pro Bowl nod in 2015 and had a Pro Bowl/First-Team All-Pro season in 2016.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Niners Nation's writers or editors.