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How the 49ers can make a trade for Jamal Adams work

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Adams requested a trade from the Jets on Thursday

NFL Pro Bowl Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

On Thursday, All-Po safety Jamal Adams requested permission to seek a trade. This saga has been ongoing for months. Thursday morning, Adams said, “it may be time to move on.” Adams is seeking to become the highest-paid player on the Jets, which would put him over $17 million for New York. The highest-paid safety in the NFL is Bears safety Eddie Jackson, who averages $14.6 million a year. Reporters have said there are certain teams that Adams is willing to be traded to where he won’t request a contract extension right away.

For fun, let’s assume one of those teams are the 49ers:

Will the Niners trade for Adams? Those odds are slim. We went over the top unrestricted free agents on the 49ers for 2021, and it’s a lengthy list:

George Kittle

Trent Williams

Richard Sherman

K’Waun Williams

Kyle Juszczyk

Kendrick Bourne

Ahkello Witherspoon

Emmanuel Moseley

D.J. Jones

Trent Taylor

Tevin Coleman

Ronald Blair

Will John Lynch pick up the phone and make an offer? That’s a safer bet. Lynch could offer one of the players listed above in the deal. The front office could also treat 2020 as an “all-in” year and treat Adams as a rental, ala Emmanuel Sanders, or Deion Sanders to put the team over the hump.

Adams contract

Many fans were hung up on Adams’s future contract situation, ignoring what his 2020 situation is. If the Jets trade Adams, the 49ers would be on the hook for only $3.5 million. That alone should get the ball rolling on any trade talks, knowing you can get a star player that’s under contract for two years. Adams not asking for an extension right away could put the team in a situation to extend Kittle, Warner, and Williams—which brings us to a few potential trade proposals.

Three trade offers

Jets get: Jaquiski Tartt, Dante Pettis, and a second-round pick.

49ers get: Adams

To me, the Jets have to say yes. They get Tartt, who is on the final year of his deal and carries a base salary of $4.3 million in 2020. The 49ers help themselves by saving $4.75 million by trading Tartt. New York also desperately needs receiver help. Sweetening the deal by adding Pettis to go along with a second-rounder would get a trade done in my eyes. I know the NFL isn’t as high on Pettis as some fans are as he hasn’t accomplished much. Where he was drafted doesn’t matter two years later. Production does.

Jets get: Solomon Thomas, Ahkello Witherspoon, a second-round pick

49ers get: Adams

New York just drafted a safety in the third round of the 2020 draft, so they don’t need a safety in return. Thomas is a salary dump for the 49ers and gives the Jets depth along the defensive line. New York has $25 million in cap space, so Thomas, for $4 million in 2020 won’t be a dealbreaker. That’d be a dream scenario I’d imagine for San Francisco, though.

I’m not budging on the second-rounder as Adams is one of the top players in the league. San Francisco won’t be the only team inquiring about Adams, so they’ll have to make an offer worth listening to. Dallas offered a first-round pick and their nickel corner earlier this offseason, and that was turned down. Ahkello would be the best cornerback on the Jets roster. Witherspoon would get to play in a system where he could flourish. New York is pretty evenly split between zone and man coverage, but they are aggressive at the line of scrimmage. The Jets starting cornerbacks if the season started today: Arthur Maulet and Pierre Desir. Witherspoon also costs pennies. His base salary is $2.3 million, which any team would pay for a starter. Witherspoon is young with plenty of upside still, and a fresh start could serve him well.

In this hypothetical, San Francisco saves $6.4 million in cap space by dealing Spoon and Solly. After acquiring Adams, they’d still come out ahead $2.9 million in cap space.

Jets get: Kwon Alexander, Tartt, Pettis, fourth-rounder

49ers get: Adams, Jets fifth-rounder

Okay, let’s get weird. The Jets were expecting a big season from C.J. Mosley, but he only played two games after injuring his groin and attempting to come back too soon. In May, Mosley said he still wasn’t 100%. Alexander is insurance for Mosley but also gives the Jets two high-quality linebackers. This is the final year that Kwon’s cap number is affordable, so a trade can work. The 49ers would have to eat $3.1 million in dead money, but they get out of a contract they’d likely want to after the season anyway. Kwon’s dead money won’t change if he’s released next offseason.

In this trade, the 49ers would wind up in the red by about a million after you exchange all of the cap hits. Dre Greenlaw showed enough promise as a rookie where you’d be comfortable moving on from Kwon—in this situation. Pettis, or one of the receivers not named Deebo/Aiyuk/Hurd, and Tartt, who is a really good football player, should all be enough for New York to pull the trigger on a deal if their hands are tied.

San Francisco is in a position where they can offer a deal they feel comfortable making. They don’t have to be the Cowboys and overpay. It’s also nice that the Niners could involve players that will shed some cap, which, in turn, will allow the team to extend players they were planing on.

Adams is worth a rental. He’s an All-Pro for a reason. Tartt is good; Adams is a star. I wouldn’t put it past the 49ers to figure out a way to get Adams extended once he’s in the building. Hypothetically, the choice would be Adams over Trent Williams, and you could draft a tackle next year and use that money to extend Adams, who is 25. There are many scenarios out there where a trade can work in the short and long-term. It all starts with a phone call: your move, John.