Unfortunately, we have reached the point in the offseason where outrageous scenarios are likely getting more airtime than they would in a busier portion of the NFL schedule. This ilk's most recent talking point was a report that surfaced on Sunday morning, stating that the New York Jets were “keeping an eye” on the situations surrounding a few star receivers who are due for new deals.
Among the names mentioned was 49ers superstar Deebo Samuel. ESPN’s Rich Cimini noted that Samuel, A.J. Brown, and D.K. Metcalf were the names the Jets were closely monitoring, as all three are entering the last year on their rookie deals, and all are likely already engaged in or soon entering negotiations for a hefty contract extension with their respective teams.
” The market is blowing up, which might make it harder for their teams to re-sign them.” said Cimini, likely referring to the deals that Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams recently signed with their new teams. As a result, the Jets are closely monitoring how negotiations go for the aforementioned receivers as their price tags have likely skyrocketed based on how the market has been developing for elite talent at the position.
Cimini also noted that New York has a particularly noteworthy interest in Samuel, which makes sense given the ties that head coach Robert Saleh and offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur have to the 49ers organization.
“To say the coaches have an affinity for Samuel would be an understatement. At this point, there’s no indication that any of them are available, but the Jets are keeping an eye on situations, just in case.”
So as it stands, there are some good young receivers who might hit the market, and the Jets organization is just doing their due diligence should any of them potentially become available. It makes absolute sense, right? Any team with an ounce of common sense and a need at the position would.
The discussion needs to revolve around the 49ers' narrative that San Francisco should explore and potentially pull the trigger on a trade that would send Samuel to New York in exchange for a package of draft picks. I’m going to break down not only why the trade shouldn’t happen but why it shouldn’t even be a thought that they entertain at this point in time.
For starters, Samuel is one of the three best players on a loaded 49ers roster, and at times last year, you could make the argument he was at the top of that list. Samuel is coming off of a year that saw him accomplish a feat that no other receiver has done in the 100 plus year history of the NFL.
We saw Samuel drag a stagnant offense from the brink of a lost season to a deep playoff run that nearly resulted in a trip to the super bowl. The star wide out’s third-year breakout was a historic season that drove a deep playoff run. And the craziest part is there is a good chance that we haven’t even seen Samuel reach his peak.
His best football is likely still ahead of him, which would make me believe it’s common sense that John Lynch and the front office makes sure that he hits that ceiling while wearing a 49ers jersey.
All signs point to the 49ers handing the keys over to Trey Lance as the starting quarterback in 2022. Part of the responsibility that comes with making the investment they did in Lance is putting their young signal-caller in the best possible position to succeed.
Trading a player like Samuel would only serve to make life more difficult for the player you moved mountains to draft and place the fate of your franchise in.
Look, there are a million reasons I can point to that show why Samuel is invaluable to this 49ers team, and most of them are likely things anyone reading this is acutely aware of too. So let’s focus on the recent track record of teams moving superstar players in exchange for draft capital.
These trades rarely work out for the team that is sending off the proven commodity in exchange for the crapshoot that is draft picks. This makes sense considering that even the best teams are lucky to have a 50 percent hit rate in any given draft.
So when you trade a player like Samuel, you’re immediately entered into a numbers game that you come into at a tremendous disadvantage. Even if you net a handful of picks - Kansas City got five in exchange for Tyreek Hill - the odds of you turning any of those picks into a player who is even half as talented or impactful as Samuel is slim to none.
Let’s take a look at a couple of different trades that saw a superstar player get moved by the team that drafted them when they were approaching a large payday on their second contract.
The important thing to note with these two specific trades is that all the draft picks that were exchanged have been made. This means we understand how these trades have panned out for both sides, even if it is not 100 percent set in stone yet.
Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears in exchange for four draft picks
Chicago’s 2019 first-round pick (Raiders selected running back Josh Jacobs)
Chicago’s 2019 sixth-round pick (Pick sent to NYJ via trade)
Chicago’s 2020 first-round pick (Raiders select Damon Arnette)
Chicago’s 2020 third-round pick (Raiders select Bryan Edwards)
Raiders 2020 second-round pick (Bears select Cole Kmet)
Raiders 2020 7th round pick (Bears select Arlington Hambright)
For starters, I still think the ultimate fleece in this trade was Chicago somehow getting the Raiders to cough up a second-round pick after already sending over an all-pro edge rusher. While Josh Jacobs and Bryan Edwards have been viable players at the NFL level, neither came close to matching a fraction of the value that Mack brought as one of the preeminent defensive players in football.
Despite Mack’s recent string of injuries, the Bears still got the better end of the trade by a wide margin. The fact the Raiders didn’t land a blue-chip player with any of the picks they netted in the trade, coupled with the fact they spent years trying to replace the pass-rushing production they lost by dealing Mack, makes this trade look as bad as it did the day it was completed.
One of the most consistent arguments I see from the crowd advocating to trade Samuel is the money that gets freed up by dealing a player slated to account for a large number of the cap. The Raiders did this when they moved Mack, and you know what that abundance of cap space got them in return?
Tyrell Williams and Antonio Brown are two receivers who never came close to marching, even a fraction of the impact Mack had on this Raiders team. The point being, while not every team is going to whiff on reallocating that cap space, it is far too much of a crapshoot to risk moving one of your best players to achieve.
Here’s another trade that’s a good reference point. Jacksonville dealing cornerback Jalen Ramsey to the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick. This is what the trade looked like.
2020 first-round pick (Jaguars select K’Lavon Chaisson)
2021 first-round pick (Jaguars select Travis Etienne)
2021 fourth-round pick (Jaguars select Jordan Smith)
Los Angeles gets:
The Rams got a player who just helped them win the super bowl, while the Jaguars turned three picks into a sum of parts that hasn’t made any kind of real impact on the field for varying reasons.
Ramsey has made multiple pro bowls as well as an All-Pro team since he has been in Los Angeles, while Chaisson and Smith haven’t been able to find any kind of consistent role on the field, let alone be game-changing players.
The jury is still out on Etienne, who suffered a foot injury during the preseason last year and missed his entire rookie campaign as a result. I’ll hold off on final judgment, but based on positional value alone, I feel pretty confident that no matter what happens with Etienne, it won’t tip the scales in the Jaguars’ favor when we look at who came out on top with this trade.
There are a handful of other examples to cite as well, such as the trades we saw for Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, and Amari Cooper. None of those teams that dealt those players came remotely close to filling the void left by those superstars.
So to put a bow on this, sure, having an abundance of draft picks and cap space sounds enticing. But ultimately, your goal when you possess those resources is to pool them together in the hopes you can find a talent like Samuel.
The 49ers already have done the hard part. They scouted, drafted, and helped develop one of the most electric players in the league. Now comes the easy part. Pay the man and continue to build your roster with the comfort of knowing you have a foundational piece at one of the most critical positions in the sport.