The San Francisco 49ers threw us a curveball and created some much-needed cap space on Monday when the team traded linebacker Kwon Alexander to the New Orleans Saints. The team will miss what Alexander brought to the field, from his energy to his play, but this is a business, money, and health matter.
Are the 49ers done trading? Well, nobody would have guessed that another team would have been willing to take on Alexander’s contract. We all could agree that John Lynch and the front office have probably been making calls non-stop. Let’s take a look at a few players the team could potentially trade, including a surprise.
The two no-brainers
I still don’t believe Pettis was given a fair shake as a receiver on this team, and you’re not going to convince me that Trent Taylor brings more to the table than Pettis. With that said, Pettis played sparingly against Seattle, and the plays where he was on the field left a lot to be desired. The fumbled kickoff was a disaster. On the “leak” play, Pettis did not run 100%, which messed up the play’s spacing. Near the goal line, Pettis missed a block, and the defender made a tackle for loss.
It’s safe to say he’s done in the Bay Area. The compensation for Pettis won’t be much. Likely, a conditional fifth or sixth-round pick. Several teams could use a receiver from the New England Patriots to the Green Bay Packers. It shouldn’t be difficult to find suitors for a young talent such as Pettis, but the bar for what you’re willing to move him for will be as low as it’s ever been. Pettis is under contract for two more seasons, and the Niners could save just north of $1.5 million over the next season and a half by trading Dante.
Witherspoon is on the final year of his contract, and the 49ers could save about a million in cap space by dealing the former third-round pick. Witherspoon plays a premium position, so it shouldn’t be challenging to find a trade partner. As is the case with Pettis, you’re not going to receive anything more than a conditional pick for Witherspoon. Moving ‘Spoon is more about the team trying to load up on Day 3 picks and shed salary.
Witherspoon has been relegated to special teams play with Emmanuel Moseley and Jason Verrett, holding down the outside cornerback spots. It’s evident that the team has lost faith in Ahkello, and moving on from him would make the most sense for both sides. A team like the Browns—where the 49ers secondary coach from a season ago, Joe Woods, is now the defensive coordinator— is a landing spot that makes sense. For a Day 3 pick, Witherspoon is worth the risk if you’re in need of a cornerback.
Tartt is currently injured, which means he would fail the physical, so no trade could be completed. That’s what I initially thought, anyway. But Kwon Alexander is injured as well, and the team already announced and completed the trade. The 49ers defense has already felt the effects of Tartt’s loss, but, as with Kwon, money, and health matter. Tartt is in the final year of his contract, and if the 49ers were to move him, they could save a little more than $3 million in cap space.
On the one hand, you create another hole for next season. On the other hand, you were unlikely to sign Tartt next offseason anyway. A team like the Ravens makes sense for Tartt. I’d try and find a suitor that could give me a fourth-rounder for the do-it-all safety. His injury history may make that difficult, but it never hurts to ask.
What? Bourne is easily the most improved player on this roster and is one of the few talented receivers on offense. Without Bourne, and knowing Deebo Samuel is still hurt, the offensive struggles become even worse. That can be true while acknowledging you’re doing everything you can as a franchise to cut corners and save pennies.
Trading Bourne, who is in the final year of his deal, would free up $3.2 million in cap space, assuming the proration is half that, so perhaps $1.6 million. Is that worth it? You have to think ahead if you’re Lynch and Kyle Shanahan. Did you plan on tendering/re-signing Bourne next season? Can you find a receiver in the draft/free agency that can do the same as Bourne at that price? These are all the options you must weigh.
Now is a perfect opportunity to “sell high” for a player that has shown he can perform at a competent level in the NFL. Knowing Shanahan loves Bourne’s mentality, this would be a bit of a surprise, but anything goes in the NFL, and it helps San Francisco save a little bit of money.
We’ll use this as a place to track all of the rumors and trades ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, which is at 1 p.m. PT.