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The next two games will determine whether the 49ers are buyers or sellers at the trade deadline

There’s a big difference between 4-3 and 2-5

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The NFL trade deadline is on November 2 this year. That’s the Tuesday ahead of Week 9. At 2-3, the 49ers look to right the ship after a three-game losing streak. The good news for San Francisco is they’re not facing MVP-caliber quarterbacks during the next two weeks.

The Niners opened up as five-point favorites (it’s down to 3-5) against the Colts for their Week 7 matchup. They should be favored on the road against rookie quarterback Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears, too.

It would be a disappointment if the 49ers weren’t 4-3 headed into a rematch against the Cardinals. They’d be right back in the thick of the NFC playoff race. In regards to the trade deadline, you’re not going to “sell” when you’re above .500.

Mike Sando of The Athletic wrote an article about the trade deadline and said the 49ers “have offerings.” When Sando said that, I figured he meant the Niners could offer a defensive lineman to a needy playoff team.

Wrong. Sando suggested the 49ers move starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo to the Browns if Baker Mayfield has to miss extended time with a dislocated shoulder:

Jimmy Garoppolo, anyone? Cleveland comes to mind if Baker Mayfield breaks down and misses an extended period. Mayfield ducked into the medical tent Sunday after landing on his injured non-throwing shoulder. If Mayfield breaks down physically over the next couple weeks, would the Browns consider making a play for Garoppolo? Would Garoppolo, who has a no-trade clause for this year, want to join a team with a better shot at winning this season?

“If you are the Niners and you lose a few games and you are moving on anyway, wouldn’t you try to save (money)?” an exec asked. “It would be curious if someone had their quarterback get injured. Or, say, Carolina if (Sam) Darnold continues to plummet.”

Mayfield returned to the field quickly after aggravating his shoulder.

“What if Cleveland traded Odell (Beckham) straight up for Garoppolo?” an exec asked. “Would San Francisco do that? I actually don’t know how many teams would want Odell. It’s a big win for Cleveland if they can get his money off the books.”

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan presumably doesn’t want to play the rest of the season with a raw rookie QB in the lineup, but what if San Francisco loses its next two games, against Indy and Chicago? The team would be 2-5 and riding a five-game skid heading into the deadline.

In theory, the Browns making a move for a quarterback if Mayfield is hurt makes sense. Kevin Stefanski comes from the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree, and Garoppolo fits Cleveland’s offense. Plus, there’s familiarity with their defensive coordinator Joe Woods, who served as the Niners defensive backs coach in 2019.

With that said, it’s difficult to imagine the number of scenarios that would have to take place for the 49ers to move Garoppolo. Sure, San Francisco could lose their next two games en route to a five-game losing streak.

Garoppolo would have to be unbearably bad for the Niners to move on from their starting quarterback. However, Shanahan hasn’t wavered all season. If Jimmy is healthy, then he’s the starter.

Most fans are ready to see the transition to Trey Lance at quarterback begin. Steve Young called Lance “awesomely raw.” The 21-year-old has arguably had the most success at quarterback against the undefeated Cardinals, but it was evident Lance needs seasoning.

We’ve done the Odell Beckham Jr. dance every seemingly every year. However, it’s hard to take this proposition seriously, given Beckham’s salary cap and how he’s looked this season.

Buyers

Swapping Garoppolo for a player would make sense for the 49ers if they felt Lance was ready, and if a team gave them an offer, they couldn’t refuse. Between Washington, Cleveland, Miami, Pittsburgh, Denver, and Carolina, plenty of teams could use a quarterback.

It would take a desperate team offering a first-round pick or perhaps a second and an additional pick for San Francisco to par ways with Garoppolo. Of course, that would also be a vote of confidence in Lance, which we haven’t seen based on the rookie’s usage.

If San Francisco is aggressive prior to the trade deadline, it’d have to be for a cornerback, right? Throwing picks at a star player like Xavien Howard and hoping to re-sign him in the offseason would be ideal but also pricey, considering the players the 49ers must extend in the upcoming offseasons.

A more realistic trade would be for veteran cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves or Xavier Rhodes, but neither of those names is surefire upgrades. Joe Haden is an interesting name. He’s been on the hypothetical trade block all summer, and that hasn’t slowed down. Haden’s new team must pay him under $3.9 million for the remainder of the season.

These next two games will determine whether the 49ers are buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. The team doesn’t have the cap space or first-round picks to be aggressive, but that shouldn’t rule them out of pursuing talent.