After the 49ers' humiliating defeat against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, the 2019 NFC Champions are heading towards the NFL trade deadline with little hope of postseason contention. While the Niners hope to end their losing streak next week against the flailing Bears, a win in Chicago would still leave them 3-4 at the deadline on November 2nd.
The final calls at the deadline will ultimately fall on 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, who has rarely been willing to give up on a season during his coaching tenure. However, without a first-round pick in the coming draft and their playoff chances dwindling, the 49ers need to see if they can acquire some draft capital for players that might not fit into their long-term plans.
If Shanahan opens up the phone lines, several intriguing deals could be on the table. Here are five that could entice the Niners to pull the trigger:
49ers Trade Proposal #1: Edge Samson Ebukam to Dallas Cowboys for DAL 2022 6th
Before getting to some more premium moves, the 49ers moving a rotational defensive lineman or two from a late-round pick has made sense dating back to the preseason. While injuries have depleted their depth on the interior line, San Francisco has several veteran edge rushers that would play a role on some contenders.
The Cowboys' defense has holes at all three levels, particularly on the edge opposite of Randy Gregory. However, 49ers edge rusher Samson Ebukam would give Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn another usable pass rusher at relatively little cost.
The Niners hoped Ebukam could excel opposite Nick Bosa and signed him to a two-year, $12 million contract last offseason. However, he’s been unable to translate his previous production with the Rams to San Francisco. Nevertheless, Ebukam is not far removed from starting in Los Angeles and remains a viable depth piece despite his struggles.
This season, any team that acquired Ebukam would only be on the hook for a pro-rated portion of $2 million in cap space. His cap number would jump to $6.5 million next year, but if he continues to struggle, Dallas could release him without incurring any dead money. For the 49ers, they are likely to release Ebukam anyway at this season’s end. After welcoming edge rusher Jordan Willis back to the team from suspension, they should be able to replace Ebukam’s snaps easily, save a little bit of cap space, and acquire a low-round pick.
49ers Trade Proposal #2: QB Jimmy Garoppolo*, CB K’Waun Williams, 2022 DEN 6th to Washington Football Team for CB William Jackson III, 2022 WSH 4th, and 2023 WSH 6th
*49ers retain all but $5 million in Garoppolo’s base salary
This trade would be labeled a Jimmy Garoppolo deal, but this deal would be more about K’Waun Williams attached to the bad-contract swap of Garoppolo and William Jackson III. The Football Team signed Jackson this offseason to a three-year, $40.5 million contract after spending the first four years of his career with the Bengals. Instead of locking up a starting spot, though, he’s played horribly and is currently out with an injury.
After shifting Kendall Fuller outside, Washington is desperate for some help in their secondary. While that could come when Jackson returns, Washington would love to get out from the remaining money on his contract. However, after backloading his contract, agreeing to pay him just a $1 million base salary this season, the Football Team would lose cap space if they released him before 2023.
If they could find a way to trade Jackson, though, they could create $2 million in 2022 cap space and clear their books going forward. In addition, Washington is one of the few teams in the NFL where Garoppolo could upgrade their current situation. With that in mind, a Jimmy G for Jackson swap could make sense for both teams.
Sending K’Waun Williams to Washington would help replenish their depleted secondary and help the 49ers save face by getting a slightly better return for Garoppolo. Williams could immediately become the nickel corner in Washington and free up Kendall Fuller to stay outside. Trading an impending free agent like Williams could also open up an opportunity for Niners rookie corner Deommodore Lenoir as well.
The 49ers could audition Jackson at corner for the remainder of the season. Then, they could retain him for 2022 at a reasonable $11 million cap hit if he plays well. Otherwise, they could release him and incur $5 million in dead money (the amount they would save in this deal by trading Garoppolo).
Shanahan’s stubborn refusal to move on from Garoppolo is probably unlikely to change before the trade deadline. However, if Shanahan finally acknowledges it’s time to recognize their previous mistakes, a deal with Washington that sends Jackson to the Bay Area would make a lot of sense.
49ers Trade Proposal #3: ILB Azeez Al-Shaair & IDL D.J. Jones to Los Angeles Chargers for LAC 2022 3rd & LAC 2022 5th
The Chargers have been one of the best stories in the NFL this season. Los Angeles is a top-flight AFC contender, led by rookie head coach Brandon Staley and quarterback Justin Herbert. Still, they have glaring weaknesses on their interior d-line and inside linebacker.
Los Angeles has control of all of their future draft picks and is well stocked to add multiple pieces at the deadline. While 49ers Azeez Al-Shaair and D.J. Jones may not be the biggest names on the market, they would address huge weaknesses on the Chargers' defense without significantly impacting the salary cap. If acquired via trade, both players would only cost a pro-rated $2.1 million in cap space.
Jones has struggled to stay on the field throughout his five-year career, but he’s been one of the Niners’ most consistent interior linemen when he’s been healthy. As a result, he would immediately be the best interior linemen in Los Angeles.
Al-Shaair has been one of the best stories in an otherwise uninspiring 49ers season. Playing for injured linebacker Dre Greenlaw, the former undrafted free agent, has been one of the most impactful players on the 49ers' defense this season. Al-Shaair has flashed big-time playmaking ability from the second he’s arrived in San Francisco but struggled finishing plays and in coverage. This season, he’s finishing plays with consistency and looks like at least a starting-caliber player.
The 49ers would love to make Al-Shaair a long-term part of their defense, but the salary cap might make that impossible. With top linebacker Fred Warner already locked into a long-term extension, the Niners should be tentative to pay another linebacker. Al-Shaair is a restricted free agent this offseason and could require a 2nd-round tender, which will likely cost roughly $4 million to keep another franchise from signing him. Greenlaw, on the other hand, is on the books for just $1.045m next season.
While Al-Shaair’s contract situation might cut his tenure in San Francisco short, it should be an enticement for the Chargers, who would have no problem affording Al-Shaair’s RFA tender and might even hope to sign him to a long-term extension. As a result, the Niners could walk away from this deal with a pair of mid-round picks while the Chargers could solidify two of their biggest weaknesses.
49ers Trade Proposal #4: LG Laken Tomlinson and SF 2022 4th to Green Bay Packers for GB 2022 2nd
Laken Tomlinson remains one of the best acquisitions of Shanahan’s tenure. Acquired from the Lions for a fifth-round pick in 2017, Tomlinson has locked down a starting spot on the 49ers' offensive line since he’s arrived and has emerged as one of the 20 best guards in the league.
While Tomlinson is a trustworthy starter, he will enter free agency this offseason and could receive contract offers approaching $15 million a year. With limited salary cap flexibility, the Niners have to consider whether they will re-sign Tomlinson. If not, they need to consider shopping him to contenders.
The Packers are in control of the NFC North and seem destined for the postseason. Likely in Aaron Rodgers’ final season in Green Bay, this could be the franchise’s best chance at a Super Bowl in years.
The Packers' interior offensive line is in desperate straights. Rookie fourth-round pick Royce Newman and second-year guard Jon Runyan have struggled mightily all season. Green Bay’s All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari should return to the field soon, and acquiring Tomlinson could turn the Packers' questionable line into one of the strongest left sides in the league.
There are not many precedents for midseason offensive line trades, particularly of players of Tomlinson’s caliber. However, if the 49ers are uncertain about their ability to re-sign him this offseason, the Packers could offer a valuable draft pick to a team that should be looking to one.
49ers Trade Proposal #5: WR Brandon Aiyuk to Baltimore Ravens for BAL 2022 2nd & BAL 2022 4th-round pick
Nobody knows how the 49ers feel about Brandon Aiyuk right now. As with many things this season, the Niners organization has been vague and inconsistent when speaking publically about Aiyuk. The 2020 first-round pick is playing more than previous members of Shanahan’s doghouse (e.g., Dante Pettis). With that said, they have also drastically cut his touches behind the line of scrimmage, which was something he excelled at last season.
The organization might still believe in Aiyuk’s ability to build off his strong rookie campaign, but this could be the final opportunity to trade him for significant draft capital if they are skeptical about his future. Do not be shocked if a contender eyeing an upgrade at wide receiver offers them enough to make a move.
The Ravens spent last offseason surrounding quarterback Lamar Jackson with a better receiving corps. While it’s already paid dividends this season, Baltimore might jump at the chance to add another dynamic weapon to their offense. Aiyuk’s abilities in the open field could give offensive coordinator Greg Roman another dynamic weapon.
Unlike most other players on this list, trading Aiyuk would do very little for the 49ers' salary cap situation, creating less than $1 million in space for 2022. However, that’s part of why Baltimore should be interested. Aiyuk is under contract through 2023, with the possibility for team control through 2024 via his fifth-year option.
The Ravens have eight picks in rounds 1-4 of the 2022 draft. If the Ravens believe they can help Aiyuk become the player it looked like he could be last year, they should contemplate consolidating their draft capital to bring him into the fold.