This time a year ago, the debates were endless surrounding which quarterback the 49ers would draft. Fast forward a year, and the 49ers have their franchise quarterback — we think.
They’ve also found themselves in a soap opera involving star wide receiver Deebo Samuel after Samuel reportedly wants to be the highest-paid non-quarterback in the NFL.
In his Football Morning in America column, Peter King wrote that the “Niners are going to be in a quandary if Samuel insists on getting paid top of the market, and getting paid now.” King believes dealing with Deebo will “test the will and negotiating skill of general manager John Lynch.”
It’s unlikely a trade happens with the way Lynch has spoken about Samuel, Nick Bosa, and what each player means to the future of the franchise. But it’s the offseason, which means we can operate in hypotheticals.
What if the Jets come calling?
Let’s say negotiating stalls. Deebo makes a hard stance, and gives the team a figure that they have no interest in entertaining.
Word gets around fast in the NFL. Suppose you’re Robert Saleh and the Jets — a staff all too familiar with Deebo’s talents — and you’ve seen Samuel scrub the Niners off his social media, are aware of his demands, and have the cap space to pay him top dollar and the draft capital to appease any demands by the 49ers. Why wouldn’t you pick up the phone?
The Jets have two first-round draft picks — both of which are in the top-10 and two second-rounders. New York is not going to draft a receiver who is in the same stratosphere as Samuel. So getting Zach Wilson an established player such as Samuel in exchange for a top-10 pick feels like a no-brainer for New York.
Would San Francisco say yes? The media backlash would be something. What it would do inside of the locker room would be more damaging than anything. Deebo is fresh off a 1,400-yard season where Samuel added 6.2 yards per carry on the ground and was the focal point of an offense that was next to nothing without him. How do you trade that?
Of course, business trumps all in the NFL. If a player has a demand that exceeds your valuation of him, you don’t have much choice to explore other options. The 49ers would be foolish to ignore offers for Deebo that include a high draft pick — especially if it’s one of the Jets’ first-rounders.
Come training camp, the odds remain high that Samuel will remain on the Niners roster. And while this will likely blow over, it’s another reminder that players have more control than we think.