The 49ers enter Monday as one of the two remaining unbeaten teams in the NFL, joining only the defending champion Patriots. There could be one missing ingredient from making them true contenders, though.
Coach/offensive play-caller Kyle Shanahan still doesn't have a true No. 1 receiver. Instead, the 49ers have rotated receivers with five different wideouts recording receptions through the team's first three games. While quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo sharing the wealth isn't a bad thing, having a Mr. Reliable outside of tight end George Kittle could do wonders for this offense.
Could the answer be Bengals receiver A.J. Green?
ESPN's Bill Barnwell posed a possible trade between San Francisco and Cincinnati on Monday, where the 49ers would acquire Green and the Bengals' 2020 second-round draft pick for the 49ers' top pick next year and their second-round pick in 2021.
Going into their Week 5 matchup with the Browns, the 49ers rank fourth in the NFL with 421 yards per game. But much of that has to do with their run-heavy offense, not Garoppolo and the passing game. Shanahan's rushing attack is averaging 175 yards per game, good for second in the league, while their passing game ranks 16th with 246 yards per game.
Green certainly could be a major upgrade over Dante Pettis and Marquise Goodwin with Deebo Samuel continuing to improve throughout his rookie year. That is, if Green can get healthy. The 31-year-old is yet to play a game this season as he recovers from ankle surgery he underwent in July, and ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sept. 30 that Green isn't expected to return until Week 7 at the earliest.
This isn't something new, either. Green only played nine games in 2018 after season-ending toe surgery, and he's on the wrong side of 30. When healthy, he still is a star, totaling 1,078 receiving yards and eight touchdowns when he played all 16 games in 2017, but that's hard to count on these days.
Not only does Green have a recent history with injuries, but he also will become an unrestricted free agent after this season. Would the 49ers really give up a first-round pick for an injured rental piece? It's hard to imagine.
Too many teams hold on to draft picks when star players are available. In this case, however, it might be smart for San Francisco to do so.
If the price is lower than Barnwell suggests, general manager John Lynch should be on the phone with the Bengals right now. Green, a seven-time Pro Bowler, clearly is worth looking into. Just how much are the 49ers willing to gamble?
Soon, we should all find out with the NFL trade deadline creeping up in the coming weeks on Oct. 29.