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Who will be the 49ers surprise cut/trade candidate this year?

It has to be a running back or a receiver, right?

Divisional Round - Minnesota Vikings v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell went through each team in the NFL to determine who is most likely to be cut or traded after the 2020 NFL Draft. Last year, Arik Armstead was ESPN’s candidate to be traded. Fast forward a year, and Armstead has an $85 million contract. Solomon Thomas was the option to be released, but there’s no reason for the San Francisco 49ers to release Thomas.

This year’s answer could be a few different options. Ultimately, the answer comes down to a wideout or a running back, which is the direction Barnwell went:

The 49ers cleared out some of their depth at running back and wide receiver by trading away Matt Breida and Marquise Goodwin during the draft, but the first-round pick the 49ers used on Brandon Aiyuk leaves them with too many wideouts. Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and Jalen Hurd will make the roster, leaving Pettis, Kendrick Bourne, Richie James, Trent Taylor, and Travis Benjamin to compete for what would likely be a max of three jobs.

Pettis fell out of favor with Kyle Shanahan last season, so he might be the odd man out, even if he is the most talented wideout of that bunch. He also is the most likely to return a midround pick via trade.

It’s tough for national writers to know the ins and outs for all 32 teams, so I don’t fault Barnwell too much here. I’ve been calling Bourne Kyle Shanahan’s “stepson” since last summer—which was met with resistance—, but I meant Kyle is all about Kendrick. By that, I mean, it’s going to be tough for Bourne to fall out of favor with the energy he brings to the table. There is too much positivity for Bourne to be on the roster bubble. It also helps that he’s a reliable target and has some of the best hands-on the team.

I don’t agree that Pettis is a candidate to be cut. The 49ers could save just over a million in cap space by releasing Pettis, which isn’t worth it. There were rumors about the team trying to deal with Pettis during free agency, but there were no takers. Shanahan continues to challenge Pettis, and if there was ever a year for the talented third-year wideout to put it all together, it’s 2020.

We’ll find out a lot about Pettis this year. Physically, he’s up to the task. It’s the preparation and mental part of the game that seems to leave the coaches frustrated. To me, the best way to get Pettis some confidence is to put the ball in his hands. How do you do that? Let him return kicks. We all know how Pettis excelled as a punt returner in college. Richie James has an uphill battle to make the roster this year. If James isn’t on the roster, that means either Taylor or Pettis will return punts. Kyle said last year he wants Dante to earn the returner job. Pettis makes a play here and there and isn’t phased by a big hit, which leads to him getting his mojo back.

Who is your surprise candidate to be cut or traded?