A.J. Green trade: Why 49ers shouldn't give up first-round draft pick

A.J. Green trade: Why 49ers shouldn't give up first-round draft pick

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.

[RELATED: Why Stefon Diggs trade wouldn't make sense for 49ers]

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.

Joe Staley shows off impressive weight loss since 49ers retirement

Joe Staley shows off impressive weight loss since 49ers retirement

Joe Staley's work ethic never was in question during his decade-plus career as the 49ers' starting left tackle, and it appears that determination has continued into retirement.

Staley told ESPN's Emily Caplan in early July that he already has lost 50 pounds since retiring from the NFL in April, and a picture shared on Twitter by Sports Illustrated's Grant Cohn definitely shows the former offensive lineman's body transformation.

[RELATED: 49ers' Bosa 'not going to blame ref' for Super Bowl no-call]

"As an offensive lineman, you're always known as this big, humongous, unathletic blob," Staley said to ESPN. "Offensive linemen get casted in a movie, and they're always 500 pounds. Then you get the opportunity to be healthy again, and all of the effort you used to put into football, you put into that. It gives you a focus once you retire. It's a little bit vain, but I'm starting to see abs that I've always wanted. And it's kind of exciting."

Offensive lineman often must eat an incredible amount of food to maintain the 300-pound frames typically seen across NFL rosters.

Staley seems to be enjoying his retirement.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

49ers' Trent Williams expects Jerick McKinnon 'breakout' 2020 season

49ers' Trent Williams expects Jerick McKinnon 'breakout' 2020 season

Trent Willams has seen more of what Jerick McKinnon can do on the football field than just about anyone over the last two years.

And when the 49ers’ new left tackle was asked which teammate he was most eager to watch on the field, McKinnon was at the top of the list.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Jet,” Williams told the Bay Area media on a video call. “After two years, the way he’s looked in the offseason, I just can’t fathom him not being a breakout player.”

The 49ers were expecting so much from McKinnon after they signed him on the first day of free agency in 2018, coach Kyle Shanahan had planned to unveil an offense in the regular season that would focus heavily on the running back’s ability as a route-runner and pass-catcher.

But McKinnon sustained a torn ACL one week before the regular-season opener. When the graft from that surgery did not fill in properly, McKinnon lost a second consecutive season. McKinnon accepted a greatly reduced salary this year to remain with the 49ers.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Williams, a seven-time Pro Bowl player, saw plenty of McKinnon’s skills during the offseason as he, McKinnon and Deebo Samuel were among those who worked out with star running back Adrian Peterson.

Samuel described those training sessions as the “one of the hardest workouts I’ve been doing since I’ve been playing football.”

McKinnon has been cleared to take part in 49ers practices, which begin Aug. 15. The 49ers’ first padded practice is scheduled for Aug. 17.

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Thrived through the worst of it

A post shared by Jet Mckinnon The Mayor (@jetmckinnon1) on

McKinnon figures to be a big part of the 49ers’ offense as a third-down back. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo recently said he is looking forward to seeing McKinnon take what he’s showing in workouts onto the field during the regular season.

“Even just throwing routes on air this offseason, he runs them differently than most running backs and he has a feel that's like a receiver, but he feels space like a quarterback,” Garoppolo said. “It's very unique and I'm excited to get him back, man. It's been a while.”

[RELATEDBosa says benefits of healthy offseason will show on field]

Williams ticked off other areas of the 49ers that have him excited, too. He spoke about tight end George Kittle and every level of the defense, including the “freakish” defensive line.

“I just want to get this team to a game,” said Williams, whom the 49ers acquired in an April trade with Washington. “It feels like college again, when we had three of the top four picks in the draft. I haven’t had this feeling since then.”

In 2013, Williams was one of three Oklahoma players to be chosen in the top four of the NFL draft. He went No. 4 to Washington, following quarterback Sam Bradford (No. 1 to the St. Louis Rams) and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (No. 3 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers).