The San Francisco 49ers started their trade deadline early with a move to acquire defensive end Randy Gregory from the Denver Broncos two weeks ago, trading a 2024 sixth-round pick, while receiving the pass-rusher and a 2024 seventh-round pick.
As the trade deadline approaches, do the 49ers still have moves to make?
San Francisco has been buyers at the deadline in the past, notably sending a haul of picks for running back Christian McCaffrey last season, and they could be in a similar position in 2023.
Who are five players whom the 49ers could trade for at the deadline?
DE Brian Burns
We have to start with the flashiest option: defensive end Brian Burns, who has been in trade discussions for a while now, dating back to last year’s trade deadline.
One of the NFL’s rising pass-rushers, Burns totaled a career-high 12.5 sacks in 2022 and has four sacks through six games in 2023 for the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers are still rebuilding and could listen to offers for Burns, who is on his fifth-year option and is a free agent after 2023.
Burns is on an expiring deal and would cost at least a first-round pick to trade for, but the 49ers could make a splash and secure a second defensive end of the future alongside Nick Bosa, should they ink him to an extension this offseason.
They clearly have a relationship with Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer from the Christian McCaffrey trade a season ago and could make magic happen again.
OT Andre Dillard
The lone offensive player on the list, the 49ers could look to go after Tennessee Titans tackle Andre Dillard.
Dillard, who signed a three-year, $29 million deal with the Titans in free agency this offseason, is currently manning the left tackle spot at his current destination. However, he could be a fit at right tackle for the 49ers once he gets acclimated.
Dillard would have cap hits of $9.5 and $12 million in 2024 and 2025, but the 49ers would only be on the hook for $3 million of guaranteed money and could look to upgrade their right tackle spot for the second half of the season.
The Titans are also in a rebuilding stage and have Nicholas Petit-Frere, Dillon Radunz, and 2023 draftee Jaelyn Duncan as young players who could step up to fill their left tackle role.
While offensive line trades are rare in the NFL, the 49ers could look to make one as they try and go all in for a Super Bowl.
CB Jaylon Johnson
Coming into the season, many proclaimed cornerback as a potential area of worry for the 49ers, specifically at the nickel position, which Isaiah Oliver has manned for the most part to begin the season.
The secondary certainly hasn't been bad for the 49ers, who have enjoyed solid play from Charvarius Ward and an ascension from Deommodore Lenoir, but San Francisco could look to make a splash with Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson.
Johnson, a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, is in the final year of his rookie contract, as he does not have a fifth-year option, meaning he’d be another expiring contract to deal with.
But, the young, 24-year-old cornerback could be a cornerstone piece in San Francisco’s press-man scheme, and likely costs a high midround selection to obtain.
The 49ers could pull the trigger, playing Johnson on the outside and moving Lenoir to the nickel, where he’s already seen some action in 2023.
LB Devin Lloyd
This one may be more of a stretch, as linebacker Devin Lloyd plays for a contender in the Jacksonville Jaguars, but they could be looking to move forward with other players in place of their 2022 first-round selection.
Lloyd could be an intriguing piece for the 49ers, as they value linebackers with his athletic skillset, which could potentially serve as a future replacement for Dre Greenlaw down the line.
Again, it’s unclear whether Lloyd would actually get moved, given the Jaguars’ current standing, but it would be a cool project with future implications for the 49ers.
CB Kaiir Elam
Speaking of future implications, Buffalo Bills cornerback Kaiir Elam could be another intriguing candidate who needs a change of scenery at the trade deadline.
Another 2022 first-round pick, Elam was recently benched in Buffalo and has struggled at times on the outside to begin his career.
Elam likely doesn't contribute much in 2023, but the 49ers would have team control and could look to develop the cornerback in their press-man scheme as a potential future starter.
Again, Buffalo is a team that's contending, and they may not want to trade their pieces to a contender, but San Francisco could be an intriguing destination for Elam to jumpstart his career.