Even before 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon sprained his foot, there was no shortage of calls for San Francisco to make a play for one of the high-profile defensive backs around the league that had recently demanded a trade.
Now that Witherspoon will miss at least the next month recovering from that injury, don't expect that noise to drown out anytime soon.
Witherspoon's absence will be a major blow to the 49ers' defense, as the third-year cornerback has rebounded from a disappointing sophomore campaign and gotten off to a strong start this season. Through three games, he's tallied five passes defended and his first career interception returned for a touchdown. With the 49ers now entering their Week 4 bye, Witherspoon is expected to miss San Francisco's next three games at least.
In the meantime, Emmanuel Moseley will get the first crack at filling Witherspoon's void, although he'll have to fend off competition from Jason Verrett and others on the depth chart. Verrett was the first to replace Witherspoon after his injury occurred, but he looked very rusty and was immediately exposed by the Steelers.
Without an obvious internal solution on the roster, would San Francisco look to an external one?
"We always look at the trade market, but it’s got to make sense,” head coach Kyle Shanahan said at his Monday press conference. “How much does it help the team right now? And how much does it help the organization going forward? You always think about right now, but you also have to think about years in advance, too. How it affects the salary cap and draft picks, things like that."
Right now, the 49ers are 3-0 for the first time since 1998. Right now, they have a legitimate opportunity to compete for a playoff spot, and that should be factored in.
Minkah Fitzpatrick is no longer a possibility after he was acquired by the Steelers last week, but Jalen Ramsey reportedly still wants out of Jacksonville, and he arguably is the ideal cornerback to employ in San Francisco's defensive system. That said, the Jaguars are asking for a massive haul in return -- as they should -- and the 49ers reportedly aren't interested in paying the price not just to acquire him, but to then re-sign him to a long-term contract as well.
Of course, their disinterest was reported prior to seeing Witherspoon go down for at least the next month.
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After the bye week, San Francisco will play its next two games against the Browns and Rams. That's a hefty dose of Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp before Witherspoon comes even close to making it back on the field.
If the 49ers' pass defense struggles significantly coming out of the bye, perhaps their attitude towards a high-profile trade will change.