49ers Mailbag: Why no movement as trade deadline nears?

49ers Mailbag: Why no movement as trade deadline nears?

The 49ers return from the bye week on Tuesday to begin preparations to face the New Orleans Saints.

Coincidentally, the NFL trade deadline is Tuesday at 1 p.m. (PT).

We are getting back from a nice break to kick off the week with another edition of 49ers Mailbag cobbled together from questions posted on Facebook.

Why haven't the 9ers made a trade? Brooks, Staley and Smith all have value. Why no movement?‬ (Aaron Noble)
I’ve reported the 49ers are not actively shopping players. Whether other teams might contact the 49ers to see what it would take to acquire some of those players you mentioned, that’s another story.

Just remember that every player that is traded signifies one more position the team must address in the offseason.

Joe Staley is signed through 2019 at reasonable base salaries. If the 49ers were to trade him, now they have a big hole at left tackle. Could Trent Brown move to left tackle? Perhaps, but it seems more wise to keep Staley around – unless another team comes strong with a trade offer.

In the case of Torrey Smith, the 49ers were the highest bidder last year with a contract that averages $8 million a season. The final three years of his contract consist of $8 million annually in salary and bonuses. If a team thought that cost was too much for him a year ago, it’s doubtful their opinion of him has grown based on what he’s done with the 49ers over the past 1 ½ seasons.

I'm not sure how much trade value, if any, Ahmad Brooks has at this stage in his career.

Can you envision a scenario where Niners trade for Tony Romo in the offseason?‬ (Trevor Millington)
The 49ers need an overhaul at the quarterback position. Colin Kaepernick reworked his deal to allow him to be a free agent at the end of the season. Regardless of how he performs, it seems highly unlikely he will be back with the 49ers next season.

The 49ers’ best course of action is to see if they can add a starter shortly after the beginning of the new league year in March. Yes, Tony Romo could be an option. Also, Jimmy Garappolo, who would be entering his final season under contract to the New England Patriots, could be a player worthy of serious discussion, too.

Depending on the level of veteran quarterback the 49ers are able to acquire, the 49ers then can approach the draft accordingly. In other words, if the 49ers add a quarterback who figures to start for a while, they do not have to draft a quarterback in the first or second round.

Is there chance the Niners will trade Carlos Hyde for a solid middle linebacker and some draft picks this offseason? ‬(Mike Montoya)
Any chance? There’s always a chance. But, realistically, Hyde is a player the 49ers would want to sign to a multi-year contract extension to keep around for a while.

When will the management step in and talk about the future of the franchise on which direction it's going?‬ (Brian Lopes)
CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke speak publicly on football matters in the offseason. Once the season begins, the organization’s philosophy is that the coach is the “voice of the football team.”

York seems to have learned a lesson from some ill-advised in-season posts on Twitter in the past. He has remained silent on social media during the season. After the departure of Jim Harbaugh, York explained his view on the matter.

“(The) head coach deals with the team and the media on almost a daily basis,” York said. “I don’t think you see CEOs doing daily or weekly media interviews and conferences.”

York is typically available to answer questions about the direction of the organization after the season.

Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in


Deepest position in the NFL Draft? 49ers VP of Player Personnel weighs in

The 49ers concluded the first wave of the free-agent signing period with the signings of players to fill the team’s biggest offseason needs.

--Cornerback. Aqib Talib would have been the answer in a trade with the Denver Broncos, but he wanted to play elsewhere. Instead, the 49ers signed veteran Richard Sherman, whom the Seattle Seahawks cut a day earlier.

--Interior offensive line. Center Weston Richburg was the player the team had rated as their top target in free agency, and they signed him to a lucrative five-year deal.

--Running back. The team decided Jerick McKinnon was a better fit than Carlos Hyde. They wrapped him up with a four-year contract.

--Edge rusher. Lacking many options in free agency, the 49ers signed Jeremiah Attaochu to a one-year contract in hopes he will earn a spot on the team and make a contribution at the “Leo” position.

The 49ers can still use more help at a number of different positions, including cornerback, wide receiver, offensive line, linebacker and edge rusher. While the 49ers might add some role players in the second wave of free agency, most of the major acquisitions at this point are likely to come in the draft.

On the 49ers Insider Podcast, 49ers vice president of player personnel Adam Peters addressed what positions he believes are strong in this year’s draft.

“I think running backs, absolutely. It’s a deep position,” Peters said. “Quarterbacks at the top is deeper than it was last year. Secondary, corners, it’s not deeper than it was last year, but it’s a strong class of corners. Those are the main ones. The offensive line class is a little better than last year, too.”

The 49ers got major contributions from their rookie class last season. Tight end George Kittle, receiver Trent Taylor, quarterback C.J. Beathard, running back Matt Breida, defensive lineman Solomom Thomas, cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, linebacker Reuben Foster and safety Adrian Colbert each played more than 300 snaps.

The 49ers feel good about Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, as a starter with Sherman on the other side. Peters said a lot of the team’s rookies played larger roles than expected in 2017, but Witherspoon might have been at the top of the list.

“I don’t think he was active for the first four games,” Peters said of Witherspoon. “And he ended up playing at a high level at the end. Really driven, conscientious player who wants to be great. 

"We were lucky we got a chance to play a lot of rookies because that’ll help us moving forward.”

Shanahan sees versatile McKinnon as piece that was missing from 49ers' offense


Shanahan sees versatile McKinnon as piece that was missing from 49ers' offense

The player Kyle Shanahan studied on video was a lot better than the player he saw on the stat sheet.

The 49ers coach said he places a lot more emphasis on how he projects a player in his offense than what the player did with his former team.

And that is why the 49ers placed a large priority on signing former Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnonon the first day of the free-agent signing period. McKinnon comes to the 49ers on a four-year, $30 million contract with $11.7 million guaranteed.

McKinnon's stats might not suggest he is anywhere near a top running back in the NFL, but Shanahan sees it differently. And that is why the 49ers opted to pursue McKinnon instead of Carlos Hyde.

“I don’t know the numbers until I like the guy,” Shanahan said. “I always watch the guy first, and turn on the tape and get lost in it for a while. There were so many things I liked about him, visualizing how we would use him and stuff he would do. And even though there wasn’t a ton of it, you still got to see him do some stuff that we do a lot. Where he did it, he excelled a ton and was very good at it.

“Eventually, I look at the numbers and it did surprise me. Then you go back and you try to see why. I’m not going to get into all the whys, but I know all the stuff we liked about him, we cut up those numbers. I think they would’ve been good numbers.”

In four NFL seasons as a part-time player, McKinnon (5-9, 205), averaged 4.0 yards per rushing attempt. The past two years, he gained 539 and 570 yards with rushing averages of just 3.4 and 3.8 yards.

Hyde (6-foot, 230) is a bigger back with more production in his career. He rushed for 988 and 938 yards in 2016 and ’17 with averages of 4.6 and 3.9 yards.

Shanahan said he looked at every player who was available, and McKinnon was the player he evaluated to be the best of all the free agents. Shanahan has long valued running backs who are versatile in the run and pass games with an ability to make defenders miss.

“A good run is when you get more yards than what it was blocked for,” Shanahan said. “Sometimes, runs are blocked for negative 1 (yard) and the best run in the game was a 1-yard carry.

“Sometimes the one that most people could do is a 60-yarder because it was a busted coverage or a busted front and nobody was there. Numbers do tell stuff, but it’s never an absolute."

The 49ers signed McKinnon to be the starting running back with Matt Breida likely mixing into the action. The 49ers could also be in the market to add to the competition and depth through the draft.

Shanahan is likely to deploy multiple players, just as he did successfully with Atlanta Falcons running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. McKinnon is expected to take Freeman’s role. In each of Shanahan’s two seasons as Falcons offensive coordinator, Freeman accounted for more than 1,500 yards from scrimmage. He rushed for 1,056 and 1,079 yards while catching 578 and 462 yards in passes.

“I’m just excited to be in the offense that I feel is a perfect fit for me,” McKinnon said on Thursday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

“Things that coach Shanahan has done with the backs like he did in Atlanta with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, I see myself doing those kinds of things. For me, I feel like the scheme is right. The fit was just perfect for me. I feel like I can’t be in a better situation as a player.”

Shanahan said he liked McKinnon as a draft prospect in 2014 out of Georgia Southern but it was more difficult to evaluate him because he mostly played quarterback in college.

But in studying McKinnon while with the Vikings, he saw a runner who has speed and elusiveness while also exhibiting the strength to break arm tackles. He set the record at the NFL Scouting Combine for running backs with 32 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press in 2014. But McKinnon's best asset might be his ability to be a factor in the passing game in blitz pickup, while also being a dependable receiver out of the backfield or in the slot.

“When it comes to separating and beating linebackers and safeties in man-to-man coverage, I definitely think he’s an issue for teams,” Shanahan said. “I think this league, when it comes to third downs and things like that, you move the chains based off of matchups, which allows you to get points in the long run. I think Jerick is very versatile and we can do a lot of things with him.

“He’s good enough to make it as a runner alone in this league. He’s good enough to make it in the pass game as just a third down threat alone, but when you can do both of those, it gives you a lot of freedom as a coach.”