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ESPN hypotheticals: 49ers should trade for TE David Njoku, edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan

Bill Barnwell had two trade proposals for the 49ers that would make a ton of sense

San Francisco 49ers v Washington Redskins Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The NFL trade deadline is November 3, which is quickly approaching. The San Francisco 49ers were buyers last year as they landed Emmanuel Sanders, and he helped catapult the Niners offense en route to a Super Bowl. The next couple of games could determine whether San Francisco would be willing to make a move.

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell had two trade proposals involving the 49ers. The first one would make sense for both teams:

Browns trade David Njoku to 49ers

Cleveland Browns get: S Tarvarius Moore

San Francisco 49ers get: TE David Njoku

The Browns desperately need help at safety, so much so that Cleveland fans have literally started a petition for the team to move on from Andrew Sendejo. The problem is that there aren’t many safeties available on the trade market, and the Browns don’t match up well with most of the teams who might have one available, including the Buccaneers with Mike Edwards.

Moore was a promising free safety prospect coming out of Southern Miss, but the 2018 third-rounder hasn’t been able to crack the 49ers’ lineup and has played only 7% of the defensive snaps in 2020. The Browns would be in line to give Moore a shot. In return, the 49ers would get Njoku, who is about to hit free agency and would step into the Jordan Reed role as San Francisco’s second tight end. This is a relatively minor move, but both sides might benefit from looking at the other team’s disappointing draftee.

Joe Woods helped turn around the 49ers secondary and pass defense a season ago. He’s now in Cleveland, serving as the defensive coordinator. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ahkello Witherspoon ended up with the Browns, but if Moore can’t crack San Francisco’s lineup, you’d have to imagine Woods could make use of him in Cleveland.

With the 49ers wideouts struggling early on, Njoku would allow the offense to run more 12 personnel, and that would play to Jimmy Garoppolo’s strengths: throwing inside the numbers. Njoku is under contract through the 2021 season. If the 49ers don’t want to keep him around, they can cut ties with him after this season, and the team wouldn’t be on the hook for any of his salaries. As for the rest of ‘20, Njoku would only cost about $1.27 million.

The 25-year-old tight end is an excellent athlete, but he’s struggled to stay healthy. While the trade looks good on paper, would John Lynch want another banged-up player? Njoku missed three games due to injury this season and only played 99 snaps a year ago. His talent is undeniable, though.

The next trade involves a player that will be thrown out once a day until the trade deadline; I imagine: Dante Pettis.

49ers trade Dante Pettis to Washington for Ryan Kerrigan

San Francisco 49ers get: Edge Ryan Kerrigan

Washington Football Team gets: WR Dante Pettis, 2021 fifth-round pick

Speaking of the Niners, they badly need short-term help on the edge, with Nick Bosa and Dee Ford both on injured reserve. Most teams aren’t willing to trade away effective veteran edge rushers, but Washington is rebuilding and has one in Kerrigan, who has a little over $8 million in salary left in the final year of his deal. The 49ers would have to clear out some cap space to make this trade work, which they could do by extending Richard Sherman or Kyle Juszczyk or via restructuring Jimmy Garoppolo’s deal.

In return, Washington could buy low on a weapon for their various quarterbacks by going after Pettis, who has barely been seen since a promising 2018 season. He played 29% of the offensive snaps last season, and despite the 49ers being hit by a rash of injuries, the former second-round pick is at just 19% this season. Pettis is reportedly dealing with a knee injury, but he has two years left on his rookie deal and could emerge as a slot option over the next year and a half.

With the 49ers being up against the cap, it’s unlikely they’d make a move for Kerrigan. If they haven’t restructured Garoppolo yet, I doubt they’d do it now unless they felt strongly about Kerrigan, who is still a productive player. He’s only playing part-time in Washington, which is expected for a 32-year-old, but in three of Washington’s five games, Kerrigan has played 23 or fewer snaps. San Francisco is more likely to wait until Ronald Blair and Jullian Taylor to return.

While Pettis rots on the bench, it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t be better suited somewhere else. This trade is unlikely, but the 49ers should be the team receiving a draft pick in return. The issue is Pettis’s trade value. If you’re not going to play him, it’s best to move on from Pettis. With that said, why would a team offer anything more than a conditional pick, knowing Pettis won’t see the field. Kevin White, who hadn’t taken a snap since 2018, was active over Pettis last week. Good luck trying to convince teams to give up any value knowing that.

Do you think the 49ers make any moves before the trade deadline?