Let’s all be honest, no one really knows what the 49ers or any other sports organization’s front office and head coach truly think of their players and whether or not they plan on keeping them around. The world of professional sports is just too tight lipped, especially in Santa Clara these past two years. If you listen to Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch in press conferences you would think they would be wearing flowered shirts and reeking of Nag Champa with all the love and praise they seem to give every player.
Knowing whether or not a player is going to be around or important in the scheme is not really clear cut, as it seems that those two individuals truly believe that all 90 players they have on the roster right now are special and of interest.
The reality of the matter is that only 53 make the active roster with ten more making the practice squad. That means at least 27 of the current players will not be here, possibly more if any of those 63 players who eventually make the team are currently on someone else’s 90 man roster. Teams with depth oftentimes use this time of year right before and during training camp to try and trade a player who they know is good, but just doesn’t fit into their game plan, giving them some return on their investment.
The players traded are usually mid-tier players who have players behind them who can bring the same value for less money. Or more simply, older expensive veterans value has diminished because of younger players performing as well or better than them. Instead of cutting and having salaries on their books with no return, general managers are looking at other teams’ rosters to see if any of their players could bring a draft pick back for next year.
Do the 49ers have any players on the trade block? There are a few people are speaking of as possible tradable commodities.
Jimmie Ward, DB
Shanahan stated that if doesn’t earn a starting position, which is why I have him listed as DB instead of CB. He has spent time at all five positions, but looks like an outsider when filling out the starting lineup. that he is the second highest paid defensive player in the secondary and a former first round draft pick many pundits saying trade him and move on.
Its not very likely that Ward is moved from this team though. Although heavily, the secondary isn’t really that deep. In fact Ward is pretty much the only depth they have. After watching safeties and cornerbacks drop like flies at times last year, and with the projected $ in cap space next year, it just doesn’t make sense to trade him when a round draft pick is the likely compensation.
Joshua Garnett, G
Drafted by the last regime, Garnett spent all of last season on IR to a knee injury. , “We took a long term view with Josh. It could have been something where we said 'Hey, we could've had him on the designated to return list' but we said hey let's give the guy an opportunity to really get this thing right.” This was seen as a vote of confidence, where Lynch and Shanahan were taking the slow road with Garnett, giving him an opportunity to learn the new blocking schemes and transform his body for the more versatile blocking responsibilities he will have under Shanahan’s zone-blocking system.
Since then Garnett has changed his body dramatically, but the 49ers has also added plenty of competition, most notably firstround draft pick Jonathan Cooper. If Garnett is not able to hold of Cooper, then he will probably not be on the 49ers roster come Week 1 of the regular season. The main knock on Garnett is that he isn’t that fast, and he isn’t very versatile on the , something a back of offensive lineman has to be. Garnett is a great road grader, but a great guard. This is the main reason this former first round draft pick is on the trade block. He is going into his third NFL season after spending his first one starting and second one on the IR. He has a lot of tread on his tires and has shown to be adequate in a starting position, which makes him the most valuable trade asset on this list.
He’s the most likely to get traded, but again, does the feel like they can get adequate compensation in a round draft pick?
Arik Armstead, DL
Another former round pick from previous regime, Armstead seems to be on everyone trade list. He started out at LEO last year and is being moved to the opposite big end position this season. Armstead is an athletic monster who has been compared to Calais Campbell his whole career. Niners Nation put out a great article on him in February, and I would everyone who thinks Armstead is a bust and should go somewhere else, please read it. For those of you who won’t, the major sum up is this: Armstead had the highest Pass Rush Percentage in the NFL in his first and second years in the league, surpassing Calais Campbell’s career best in 2016, even though Armstead fought injuries his whole 2016 season. 2017 he was moved out of position by Shanahan to make room for their guy, Thomas. Then hit him and he finished the year on IR.
Looking forward to 2018, the brain trust in Santa Clara has moved him back to a more natural position play big end, where he can bull rush and partner with DeForest Buckner at rushing up the middle, which is what he excels at. You will not hear me question Shanahan much, but moving Armstead out of his position last year was a mistake. It looks like Armstead should wrap up a starting position at big end and probably play 80% of the defensive snaps on the year. So, Armstead is going nowhere this offseason. It does appear that Lynch drafted some insurance for next season with Kentavius Steet, but he will be spending his rookie season as a redshirt, and there is no on else on the roster with the physical attributes and ceiling that Armstead brings to the roster.
Lynch has quietly built a very deep and strong LB core, even if all the names aren’t incredibly flashy. Out of the group, Foster, Fred Warner, and Malcolm Smith will most likely finish, if not start the season (after Foster’s suspension) as the starting linebackers. Last year they kept four inside LB (NaVarro Bowman, Foster, Brock Coyle, and Ray Ray Armstrong) and five outside LB (Eli Harold, Elvis Dumervil, Dekoda Watson, Pita Taumoepenu, and Aaron Lynch). That makes nine linebackers (not including Thomas or Armstead who played a decent amount of LEO).
Outside of Foster, Warner, and Smith, Shanahan currently has Brock Coyle, Eli Harold, Elijah Lee, Mark Nzeocha, , Korey Toomer, and Dekoda Watson, with Jeremiah Attaochu and Cassius Marsh .
That’s ten LBs plus Attaochu and Marsh to fill the, , and LEO positions. At least one of these players isn’t going to make the squad, and it is always better to trade an asset than cut one. There is a good chance that Lynch finds someone else’s roster Harold, Toomer, or Watson fit better. Harold seems to have more trade value, and so he is the best bet from this group to be shipped for a lateround flyer.
Looking at the rest of the roster, the rebuild is still going strong, but the depth just isn’t there to facilitate a bunch of trades. If the injury bug hits for the third season, then Shanahan will need every piece of talent this roster has.
If you were to put money on it, the safe bet is that the will be very quiet on the trade front unless someone offers more than Lynch believes a player is worth, which doesn’t happen much in the 21st century.
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