As the NFL offseason continues, the San Francisco 49ers trade inaction continues to stir the rumor mill. Although the Jimmy Garoppolo rumors have subsided, now the future of All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel is at the center of plenty of speculation.
Samuel was incredible last season for the 49ers, leading the league with 18.2 yards per reception while amassing 77 receptions, 1405 receiving yards, 1,770 yards from scrimmage, and 14 total touchdowns. Now heading into the final year of his rookie contract, Samuel is in a position to get a well-deserved contract extension from the 49ers. However, at least for the moment, the Niners have been unwilling to reach his asking price.
Samuel is reportedly eyeing a deal that pays him $25 million a year and potentially makes him the highest-paid non-QB in the NFL (although the material meaning of that might be less than you think). The 49ers should have the salary cap flexibility to give him a contract he deserves. Still, given their limited space, rumors have begun swirling that they could soon follow several other contenders who have traded top wide receivers.
Enter the New York Jets. With former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh working as the Jets head coach alongside a slew of former Niners’ assistants, the Jets' ties to Samuel are obvious. As New York tries to build an offense around young quarterback Zach Wilson, adding a talent like Samuel would be an obvious boon for the organization. More importantly, for the 49ers, they have a ton of draft capital.
The Jets have two top-ten picks in the first and second rounds alongside seven selections in the first four rounds of this year’s draft. For that reason, they have many pathways to make an aggressive trade offer to the 49ers for Deebo Samuel.
There's a chasm of possibilities if a Samuel trade were to happen. The Jets reportedly offered Kansas City the 35th, 38th, and 69th selection for Tyreek Hill, who has been an elite NFL receiver for longer than Samuel, also comes with significantly more off-field red flags.
While Seahawks wideout D.K. Metcalf could be on the move soon as well. Seattle might not want to trade their only remaining star this offseason. That might leave Samuel as the only premium receiver left for teams like the Jets, which could position the 49ers to get an even bigger return than Kansas City.
Here are a few iterations of what a trade could cost the Jets. These packages are not meant to represent equivalent values but rather to cover the range of possibilities. The 49ers' front office may very well be asking themselves, “How much would it take for us to trade our franchise’s best wide receiver since Terrell Owens?” Take a look at these possible deals for yourself. Would any of them be enough for you to feel good about the trade?
Jets-49ers Deebo Samuel trade package #1:
4th overall pick
It would be a massive shakeup of the draft and the third straight year the 49ers traded for another team’s top first-round pick. The Niners could tell the Jets that all they would need is the fourth overall pick, it would be a tough pill to swallow, but given New York’s overall draft capital, they might be more willing to do it than the average team.
The 49ers would immediately know that they will have an opportunity to draft at least one of Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeau, Trayvon Walker, or Kyle Hamilton, the four elite defensive prospects in this class. Thibodeau, Walker, and Hutchinson each are exciting edge prospects who could immediately form an incredible duo opposite Nick Bosa. Hamilton is arguably the best safety prospect of the decade, which could add another dynamic piece to their secondary. Of course, they could also explore trading back to add more picks.
The Jets would be foregoing the top offensive and defensive line talent at the top of the draft, but with the Seahawks' first-round pick (10th overall) and multiple other top-40 picks, they would still have some flexibility to move back up in the top-10 to draft any of the edge rushers who fall.
Since this deal is only one pick, different draft value charts are not going to have different opinions. However, for context, the Fitzgerald-Spielberger chart is the most modern chart that was built from an analytical model built by Jason Fitzgerald and Brad Spielberger. Jimmy Johnson’s classic draft chart from his days as a head coach was the primary tool used in the NFL for many years, but Rich Hill’s model tried to adjust it for recent draft trade trends.
Draft Value Chart: Single pick most equivalent to the total value (where it ranks among the five packages)
Fitzgerald-Spielberger: 4th overall pick (4)
Jimmy Johnson: 4th overall pick (1)
Rich Hill: 4th overall pick (1)
Jets-49ers Deebo Samuel trade package #2:
If the Jets are keen on holding onto their top-five selection, a top-ten pick in the first and third round would be more than the 49ers needed to trade DeForest Buckner in 2020.
The top wide receiver prospects, like Drake London and Garrett Wilson, tend to go off the board at around the 10th pick in most mock drafts, suggesting the Niners could consider trade-down scenarios or take their pick of the class’s receivers as they looked to help replace Samuel’s production. Plus, the 49ers are currently only slated to pick once in the first 90 picks of the draft. So adding the Jets' third-rounder would be a notable addition as well.
For the Jets, they are likely planning to take a receiver with the 10th overall pick in the draft. While it’ll require more cap space, it would seem reasonable for them to be happy to turn that and a third-round pick into Samuel.
Fitzgerald-Spielberger: 2nd overall pick (2)
Jimmy Johnson: 6th overall pick (2)
Rich Hill: 6th overall pick (2)
Jets-49ers Deebo Samuel trade package #3:
35, 38, 117
This deal closely approximates what the Jets offered for Hill. While they offered the 69th selection, they were getting a pick swap from Kansas City back in that proposed deal. This will basically force the 49ers to ask themselves if they value Samuel more than Kansas City valued Hill. If they do, this wouldn’t be good enough. If they don’t, this might be the deal that gets done.
There’s no scenario in NFL history where any team would trade the first overall pick for 35, 38, and 117, but the Fitzgerald-Spielberger model believes that trio of picks has actually been more valuable than the top selection in the draft. Unsurprisingly, the more traditional models view this package as far less valuable and one that would likely enrage most fans.
The 49ers have tended towards more traditional draft value charts in their trades. For that reason, I’d expect them to prefer only getting the 10th overall pick to this package. I suspect either of those would be something the Jets would be happily willing to do.
Fitzgerald-Spielberger: 1st overall pick (1)
Jimmy Johnson: 13th overall pick (4)
Rich Hill: 11th overall pick (4)
Jets-49ers Deebo Samuel trade package #4:
38, NYJ 2023 1st*
This framework seems like the least enticing for either team since the 49ers probably care about contending in 2023 a lot more than the Jets. However, according to the three trade value charts, it does represent a fairly equivalent value. Besides, betting against the Jets might not be such a bad idea.
Fitzgerald-Spielberger: 4th overall pick (3)
Jimmy Johnson: 9th overall pick (3)
Rich Hill: 8th overall pick (3)
*future pick value was calculated with a 35% discount rate and assuming the 10th overall selection
Jets-49ers Deebo Samuel trade package #5:
Alijah Vera-Tucker, 35, 111
There’s no denying how upset 49ers fans would be if this were the trade that got done. Without a first-round pick or big-name player in return, this package would understandably be an underwhelming return. However, it also heavily depends on the evaluation of Vera-Tucker and the respective draft chart.
Vera-Tucker was the 14th overall pick in last year’s draft and had a solid rookie season, starting all 17 games for the Jets at left guard. With the Jets signing 49ers left guard Laken Tomlinson as a free agent, Vera-Tucker will have to move to the other side of the line if he stays in New York. He has only started on the left side of the line in college or the pros.
The Niners still have questions about how they will replace Tomlinson. Vera-Tucker would be a clear upgrade over the 49ers' current options. While he was inconsistent in pass protection as a rookie, he was already an impressive run blocker.
His PFF grades were far superior to 49ers right guard Dan Brunskill across the board, and there’s reason to believe he has room for greater development moving forward. Add in that the 49ers and Jets run very similar offensive schemes, and the potential fit is obvious. But how much would Vera-Tucker be worth to San Francisco?
The Fitzgerald-Spielberger chart argues this trade would be the best offer of the bunch if Vera-Tucker was worth the 40th overall pick, a case that’s pretty easy to make. The more traditional charts, however, are dicier.
Johnson’s chart would require Vera-Tucker to be worth the 12th overall selection and Hill’s the 18th to make this deal more valuable than just recouping 4. Of course, if the fourth overall pick is off the table, it’s a very different conversation.
Fitzgerald-Spielberger: Vera-Tucker + 10th overall pick (5)
Jimmy Johnson: Vera-Tucker + 30th overall pick (5)
Rich Hill: Vera-Tucker + 29th overall pick (5)
Jets-49ers Breakeven Deebo Samuel Trade:
Alijah Vera-Tucker, 10
The 10th overall pick and Alijah Vera-Tucker may seem like significantly more than what the Jets offered for Tyreek Hill, but would the Jets really turn down the chance to get Deebo for just one interior lineman and one pick? Especially when they would still have a top-five selection in the draft.
Almost every mock draft expects the Jets to add a wide receiver with the 10th overall pick, why not turn it into Deebo? While trading Vera-Tucker would create some questions along their offensive line, there’s no guarantee it will be a seamless adjustment for him to move to the right side. Plus, the Jets have retained both of their right guards from last season (Dan Feeney and Greg Van Roten) and would still have plenty of draft capital to add another interior offensive lineman.
If the 49ers make the questionable decision to trade Samuel, this deal could let them walk away and say they received the equivalent of two first-round picks, one of which has already proven they are a solid NFL starter at a clear hole on the roster.
While the majority of salary cap savings would come from not giving Samuel an extension, Vera-Tucker’s 2022 salary is roughly $2.6 million less than Samuel’s, giving the 49ers a bit more cap space heading into the draft. For added measure, Vera-Tucker is under contract for the next three years for just over a $2.1 million per season cost to the Niners, a fantastic value for a starting guard. Plus, the 49ers would have another season of potential team control over Vera-Tucker if they wanted to exercise his fifth-year option for the 2025 season.
For me, it would probably take the Jets offering both the 4th overall pick and Vera-Tucker to feel comfortable pulling the trigger. Even then, I would have some hesitations. And that’s why if it were my decision, I probably would not trade Samuel. As my colleague, Jordan Elliott, explained last month, teams that trade stars rarely come away in a better position than they started.
By the way, I doubt the Jets are willing to part with a top-five pick and one of the better young players on their already talent-deficient roster, even for Samuel. It’s hard to imagine the Niners netting more than Vera-Tucker and the 10th overall pick, and that would still be more than the Jets offered for Tyreek Hill.
So how do you feel about the possibility of trading Deebo Samuel? What do you think a team like the Jets would be willing to offer? How many of these deals would you want the 49ers to accept? Let us know in the comments.