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SANTA CLARA, California – Perhaps it should come as no surprise that San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel told ESPN’s Jeff Darlington on Wednesday that he’s requested a barter.
There were signs over the past month or so that Samuel was increasingly dissatisfied with the 49ers, including scrubbing the team from his social media accounts and this week refusing to attend the opening of the 49ers’ offseason condition- program.
And now there are plenty of questions about how a once strong relationship between a team and one of its best players has reached a critical turning point.
What’s the problem?
Samuel is entering the final year of his rookie contract and would like a lucrative extension. Niners see Samuel as a basic player and have repeatedly said they would like to keep him for the long term. Niners are also ready to give defensive Nick Bosa a mega-contract extension soon. In recent years, the Niners have reached deals with players in similar situations (tight-end George Kittle and linebacker Fred Warner) after lengthy negotiations. These deals have happened closer to training camp, but allow Niners to go through the free agency and the draft first.
The receiver market has exploded this year with Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill and Stefon Diggs securing contracts that have reshaped the current rate for a top-widout. And while the ceiling has been reset, the floor has also, as a less-than-accomplished wideout like Jacksonville’s Christian Kirk, received an eye-opening contract averaging $ 18 million a year.
So Samuel wants a new deal and he’s not the only one. Tennessee’s AJ Brown, Seattle’s DK Metcalf and Washington’s Terry McLaurin were all non-first-round picks in the same draft as Samuel (2019), who is eligible for overtime.
However, Samuel’s situation is different. While others still seeking a deal have longer resumes of production as traditional recipients, much of Samuel’s success is tied to his added value as a running back, which in theory could raise his price tag over the other wideouts being paid. But that versatility cuts both ways. At the same time, it increases Samuel’s earnings, but it also takes a bigger toll on his body and potentially the life of his career.
At the end of the season, Samuel indicated that he was OK with the dual role, even inventing the term “wide back”.
“I’m fine with that,” Samuel said then. “Like I said all year, I’m down to anything to help this team win, whatever it is.”
At the time, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said Samuel would have a “very similar” role in 2022, but acknowledged that Niners “should be careful about it.” Still, it is reasonable to wonder whether Samuel prefers to play a more traditional recipient role (and thus be paid as one) or at least get the recurring snaps reduced.
What are the 49ers’ options?
Just because Samuel has requested a trade does not mean the Niners will trade him. They have a few options:
Keep Samuel and repair everything that has broken to sign him in the long run. By all indications, this would be Niners’ preference. They have been tough on signing him and keeping him well into the future. They have been trying to engage in discussions in recent weeks, but they have not gone anywhere. Deleting the team’s best offensive weapon would be a difficult pill to swallow for any team, but especially one that was a win from the Super Bowl and which is now preparing to hand over the attack to a young quarterback at Trey Lance. Samuel and Shanahan are close to each other, which means it is not out of the question that the parties can still find common ground.
Swap Samuel for the highest bidder. This is the option that Niners undoubtedly does not want, but if the deals are good enough, they have to consider it. San Francisco does not have a first-round pick in this year’s NFL draft after allowing it to move up to Lance last year. Adams and Hill were swapped for packages that included first-round picks, and it would take something similar for the Niners to move Samuel. The New York Jets, who just missed Hill, would be a logical match as the Jets have two first-round picks (Nos. 4 and 10) and knowledge of Samuel due to their coaching staff, led by the former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. There is also a recent precedent for Niners biting their teeth together and swapping a player they did not want to swap after doing so with defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and the Indianapolis Colts in 2020. John Lynch has called trading Buckner the hardest , he has had to do. do as daily manager. Trading Samuel would no doubt shoot to the top of the list.
Keep Samuel, force him to play his final season and then take him in 2023. This is the most unlikely and would probably result in a tense look between the pages. Niners have some influence here. The league’s collective agreement says that if Samuel does not sign up for training camp, he could lose an earned season and he would become a limited free agent in 2023, meaning the Niners will once again retain control of his rights. Samuel could choose to “hold back”, which has become a popular method for players seeking new deals, by reporting but not participating in activities on the court. But it would probably have to come with some sort of willingness to work out an extension for the Niners to be on board. The most likely scenario would be for Samuel to play out of season and for the Niners to tag him with the possibility of swapping him next season, though that also involves a significant risk for both sides. An injury to Samuel would hurt his value on a new contract and diminish what the Niners could get in a possible trade.
What is the timing?
Rob Ninkovich shares his thoughts on reports that Deebo Samuel is looking for a new deal from the 49ers after his breakout season.
If the Niners decide to trade Samuel, it would make sense to do so sooner rather than later.
The NFL draft is set to begin on April 28, and it would take the 49ers to know not only if they have a first-round pick, but what gaps they need to fill if they do. Suffice it to say that losing Samuel would create some huge gaps.
This does not mean that Samuel would not be traded later. However, if he is still on the Niners at the end of the first round, it should send a clear message about how the Niners intend to handle what has become a messy situation.