The following is a pure fantasy piece. There is a very specific way that we are approaching these pieces.
- A trade. ***ONLY ONE*** This must include the player/pick(s) (obviously) as well as the compensation you would have to give up acquiring him/the pick(s).
- Two free agents (contracts are irrelevant since we have a wizard in Paraag Marathe) but it must only be two free agents. For the purposes of this exercise, we will assume that anyone who is a free agent at the time of authoring the article is fair game.
- Two draft picks. The picks can obviously be anyone but within the realm of possibility (so no Nick Bosa and Josh Allen – the team are extremely unlikely to be able to land two consensus top 10 players with no character concerns)
Before I get into my thoughts, Mike Andrews has already provided his thoughts here.
As much as I would love the Niners to pursue one of the highly sought after wide receivers that could be available via trade, the team will probably choose to steer away from any potential big-time distractions. Antonio Brown would be a great fit and might be attainable in exchange for a manageable draft pick, but due to recent activity by Mr. Big Chest, they will likely decide against bringing him in. Odell Beckham Jr would be my ideal number one receiver for the team but due to the price tag of trading for him and his salary, I’m not sure if the team will decide to mortgage their future. However, it might be too hard to pass up if the front office wants to make a big splash with a win now type of move.
The player that I think the 49ers could trade for is cornerback Xavier Rhodes from the Minnesota Vikings. He is coming off a down year having dealt with injuries, but he is still a top corner and would pair very nicely with returning veteran Richard Sherman. As crazy as a trade for him might seem to be initially, it is quite realistic as the Vikings have depth at the cornerback position and are in dire need of relieving some of their financial issues – the Vikings currently have just over $7 million in available cap room. Moving Rhodes would help free up $13.4 million, giving them much more flexibility as they try to add pieces around Kirk Cousins. In terms of compensation, I would be willing to give up at most a 2020 second or 2020 third round pick, after factoring in age, injuries and salary.
Option B: Xavien Howard (Miami Dolphins)
Narrowing down free agency targets to only two selections was a little more difficult for me this offseason compared to past years, especially when you factor in the combination of the team having several needs and the lack of overall draft picks. With only two free agents to choose from, I went with the players that I think would have the most potential to make the biggest immediate impact in year one and who will also be available. Truthfully I’d love to bring in guys like Demarcus Lawrence and Dee Ford but they will certainly not be hitting the open market and as much as I would like to act as if I’m playing Madden, I’d prefer to be somewhat “realistic”.
The first player that I think the team should go after is free safety, Earl Thomas. Let’s forget about the pure talent that a healthy Thomas provides briefly and just focus on the leadership that he would bring to the defense in San Francisco. There were way too many complete breakdowns of communication last year and honestly, guys seemed lost. Some of that needs to fall on Robert Saleh and the defensive staff but it also stemmed from the inexperience in the defense.
Thomas would be a perfect fit in the 49ers’ secondary and could work wonders with developing players like Adrian Colbert. If the former Seahawk is brought in, returns to health and performs as he has in years past, he would immediately be one of the best safeties talent wise in 49ers’ history. The former first round selection out of Texas is a physical player who possesses elite recognition skills and can react in an instant – both against the pass and the run.
The only problem outside of his injury history is that Thomas will be in high demand. If the Niners are interested in him, they might end up getting into a bidding war with the likes of Dallas or Houston among other potential suitors. Hopefully his former teammate Richard Sherman can talk him into staying in the NFC West to battle against his former team. Seattle refused to commit to him long term and his tenure with them ended poorly following his preseason holdout and season ending leg fracture. Locking down a bonafide center fielder would address a big need and help alleviate having to desperately draft one in April. Adding both Thomas and Rhodes would be costly, but it would turn the 49ers’ secondary into one of the best in the NFL.
Option B: Adrian Amos (Chicago Bears)
After completely bolstering the secondary, it is time to finally start addressing the team’s biggest need after neglecting it for years… edge. It will be crucial for the team to not just wait and rely on the draft to improve the pass rush but to add some experience to the position in addition to any future selections. The guy that I would love to bring in is defensive end, Trey Flowers. News recently came out that the New England Patriots are unlikely to use the franchise tag on Flowers. He would be a big addition to the defensive unit: a powerful player with a high motor who is just hitting his prime. He had a stellar season last year with 7.5 sacks, and showed considerable potential to develop further in the future. Flowers was the third highest graded player in his position group with a 90.4 overall grade per PFF. However, I think it will be surprising if New England doesn’t figure out a way to get a deal done with such a young, rising stud on the edge.
Option B: Shaquil Barrett (Denver Broncos)
Acquiring Flowers is just the first move to address the edge position, all the more important considering Nick Bosa is anticipated to be a significant contender for the Cardinals’ first overall pick. If Bosa is there at 2, you could add him in with Flowers to completely electrify the defense’s pass rush.
If Bosa is gone and a trade down is not possible, I would draft Kentucky’s Josh Allen. He finished his collegiate career with 220 total tackles, 31.5 sacks, one interception, 11 forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He set Kentucky’s career sacks record (31.5) and single-season sacks record (17). Allen is an extremely instinctive and explosive player with excellent bend, that can line up in various spots in the defense. His first step is impressive; he absolutely explodes out of his stance and has great closing speed on ball carriers and quarterbacks alike. Allen still has some room for improvement – he needs to add some counter moves and learn to be more effective versus the run. The combine will be a huge opportunity for him to boost his draft stock after declining his Senior Bowl invitation. The potential of him getting even better is both very enticing and a scary thought, he would certainly be an asset that I would love to add to Robert Saleh’s violence driven “All gas, no brakes” defense.
Option B: Jachai Polite
As much as Ole Miss’ D.K. Metcalf would be an exciting receiver to add to the 49ers roster, he will likely be selected within the top 20 picks. Most people that follow me won’t be too surprised by the second prospect that I would love the Niners to draft and that is N’Keal Harry, wide receiver out of Arizona State.
After skipping out on making a deal for one of the superstar receivers, the team will look towards the draft in order to help upgrade the unit. The prototypical X-receiver, Harry totaled 213 receptions for 2889 yards and 22 touchdowns in his Sun Devil’s career. With his overall height, weight and catch radius, Harry would add a much-needed element to the WR group. His combine performance will be crucial to where he ends up being drafted as there are concerns with his speed and questions about his route running, but he is currently projected as a late first – mid second rounder. He uses his body and physicality to his advantage to separate, possesses explosive RAC ability and is an effective and willing blocker. Furthermore, Harry can beat press coverage by winning the fight at the line of scrimmage (though he still needs improvement here), can track the ball in the air and has strong hands to pull in difficult catches with ease. Harry would be an immediate upgrade to the 49ers red-zone efficiency which was last in the league in touchdown percentage in the 2018 season. I have little doubt that he could become one of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite targets and a star in the NFL .
Option B: Riley Ridley