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Why the 49ers should tread lightly when considering their options at the trade deadline

There’s more issues here than just a single piece. Bringing a star in may make things worse.

NFL: Houston Texans at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Ask for Montez Sweat or Patrick Surtain II all you want, it isn’t fixing the defensive issues displayed when the San Francisco 49ers dropped a sloppy loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. This was not the lack of talent, or someone injured and a backup being inadequate. This was a lethargic, underachieving defensive squad complimented by stints of questionable offensive play-calling and a head scratching interception (one of the two) by the quarterback.

A single trade isn’t going to rectify all of that. Don’t misunderstand: it will help, but it’s not going to magically fix everything. There are trades that make the team better, but it doesn’t fix what is displayed.

One splash player. Or even two players for the entire 49ers 2024 draft board isn’t going to fix it either. This is a team effort in 2023, not a “well if we just had this.” There isn’t a Christian McCaffrey type player that can change the team and is needed since the starter is on IR. The 49ers may be manning the phones and trying to get a trade going, but what is it really going to fix when we’ve seen significant issues and self-made mistakes on each side of the ball?

Chase Young? Danielle Hunter? That’s not going to fix the schematic issues of the defense.

In 2022, before Christian McCaffrey came to the 49ers, there were numerous issues as well, with the running back position being one. To be specific: production and availability. Especially when Elijah Mitchell just couldn’t stay healthy.

While McCaffrey didn’t help Brandon Aiyuk catch the ball, or help Jeff Wilson Jr. keep from fumbling, he brought a much-needed chess piece to the offense to help get them over the hump. While the 49ers still had some things to clean up, McCaffrey was a foundational piece to the offense.

That same type of player and need just isn’t there on the other side of the ball. Putting Montez Sweat opposite Nick Bosa isn’t going to help Bosa get to the quarterback quicker when he’s one-on-one with an offensive lineman.

Putting Patrick Surtain II in the backfield isn’t going to make the defensive line speed up their pressures on the quarterback. Neither of those guys are going to help the 49ers offense stop with the mistakes and drive-killing penalties. Adding more defense isn’t going to fix Deebo Samuel or Trent Williams’ injury woes against the Bengals.

Furthermore, the 49ers don’t need a veteran to help them in the way Emmanuel Sanders did in 2019 with developing a rookie Deebo Samuel.

And even offensively, who do you see as an upgrade? The 49ers offensive line did not have a good day on Sunday, but is a lineman or two really going to fix the issues displayed? Sure, there was no Trent Williams, but a splash trade for a tackle or guard isn’t going to upgrade the entire line. Not to mention having to learn the playbook with no training camp.

If you think trading for or removing someone who executes one or two single boneheaded plays on defense is worth that draft capitol, think again. There are numerous issues on both sides of the ball, a single position isn’t going to solve it.

So then there’s offense. Maybe a guard? As I said, the 49ers offensive line had a bad day at the office.

Given the issues we’ve seen on full display, a one-year rental of Surtain II or Sweat might do more harm to prospects than good. It also bears repeating that Brandon Aiyuk needs every penny he can get, so if you bring in one of those stars, you make a single extension or two. And that could much more difficult in 2024.

Would one of those players be nice to have? Yes, but none of them are going to a position and merit increase in productivity the way McCaffrey did in 2022. The defense can still give up 400 yards a game, the defensive line can still get pushed and have a running back like Joe Mixon average 7 yards a carry at one point. A single player isn’t fixing that.

A trade does help the 49ers, but the reason they are 5-3 isn’t because they have a hole or two that can be patched up. It’s much more complicated than that.

But if you think there’s a splash trade that can have the same effects as McCaffrey, please say below and what it’d fix.