We have some time until the 2019 NFL Draft and the 49ers have a decision to make between edge rusher or interior rusher. If they go to the interior and select Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, that is almost a declaration that Solomon Thomas was a mistake and is not working out.
Early Sunday, CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso tweeted out who he would be inquiring for in trades and Thomas made the list. Thomas is not a bust, but it’s no secret he hasn’t played up to expectations. This can be blamed somewhat on him starting 2017 late (due to that stupid collegiate rule) and also on him recovering from his sister’s suicide in 2018. It’s safe to say he’s under the microscope. New 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek has been reported to be getting Thomas film and if he thinks he can’t turn him around, the 49ers very well could be looking to Williams instead of Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa.
If Williams is drafted, this opens up a scenario where the 49ers may want to give Thomas a change of scenery.
It’s time to play armchair GM.
Thomas can fetch a trade. He’s not awful. It’s a matter of what the 49ers could get for him. If Williams is the Solomon Thomas they wanted and they go elsewhere for their edge rusher, another team may want to give him a shot. Thomas has played only two years on his four-year rookie deal. This deal also includes a fifth-year option. That’s three possible years you can get a cheap defensive lineman. If cut in 2019, he carries a dead money hit of $16.6 million, so he’s not getting released, he’ll be traded.
That rookie deal is also indicating his youth. That gives a young person that, if they pan out, can be playing for another team for years to come.
Unfortunately, Thomas has nothing as far as stats. He has four sacks for his career, three of which were in his rookie season. I’d like to say, “Stats lie, tape doesn’t” but the tape shows just the same issues. It doesn’t show a bad player, but one that just hasn’t gotten it together.
So, if I was called about what to send Thomas off for what would I look for? Given his contract and age, probably a fourth-round pick. I want badly to say a third, but Trent Brown was on the final year of his rookie contract and offloaded to the New England Patriots for that, so Thomas would be a bit different. I think the contract works wonders since it won’t cut into a trade partner’s salary cap.
Even a fourth round pick is a bit high asking price. That’s what I’d give up for Thomas. Even if he finds himself buried on a depth chart, he’s still cheap and would give depth. It’s disappointing a prospect picked so high in the draft would be in this situation, but it is what it is.
I don’t know who would be interested in giving Thomas a change of scenery. We also don’t know how his film review went with the 49ers coaching staff. Besides DeForest Buckner, the 49ers defensive line was disappointing—not just Thomas. I’d like to say that’s probably what cost D-line coach Jeff Zgonina his job. Personally, I think Thomas sticks around. He hasn’t done enough to where he should be released and given the widespread problems the 49ers had last year, saying Thomas is awful may be incorrect. There were some bright spots like when he was double teamed by the Seattle Seahawks. I think he just needs some time to get it together. Newly acquired defensive end Dee Ford was a first round pick with an uninspiring first two years as well until his 2016 campaign hit and he racked up 10 sacks in 15 games. So maybe this just takes some time.
If you were John Lynch and an NFL team asked you what it would take to get the first round defensive lineman, what would you give up?