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How NFL player jersey exchanges signal respect, friendship, goodwill

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USATSI

How NFL player jersey exchanges signal respect, friendship, goodwill

SANTA CLARA -- Some players do it for sentimental reasons, others out of admiration. It occasionally even can be a goodwill gesture.

But no matter the reason, jersey swaps have become a postgame ritual that’s almost like a Christmas gift exchange for NFL players.

Mike McGlinchey’s most recent jersey acquisition was made in Week 15, when he traded with his cousin, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. The second-year 49ers offensive tackle already has started a jersey collection that he says eventually will be framed and hung once he’s settled somewhere.

“I try to do it only for the special occasions, like guys that I’ve played with or guys like my cousin, Matt, because he is family,” McGlinchey said. “But I’ve done it to my Notre Dame teammates, a high school teammate, stuff like that.

“I was lucky enough to play with five guys that are at the top of the game right now, and we all did it together. How cool it is now we are kind of at the top of the league, too? It’s a testament to what we had back then. That’s why I trade. It's for those type of moments.” 

After nine seasons in the league, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman has built a large collection, with 50 to 60 jerseys. Most of the time, he says the idea to exchange is brought up as players converge at midfield after the game clock has wound down. At least once, it was agreed to as the game was being played.

"This year, the only planned one I had was with [Marlon] Humphrey from Baltimore,” Sherman said. “He had asked me earlier in the season. That was the only one I had planned. [Jarvis] Landry asked me during the game.” 

Sherman has been asked to trade jerseys with other marquee players, but other times, it has been by someone with whom he might have limited knowledge. Regardless, he never has turned down a request for his jersey, unless it already was promised to another player. Sherman even traded jerseys with Russell Wilson in Week 10, despite his 2018 assertion that he doesn't have a relationship with his former Seattle Seahawks teammate. 

Sherman’s extensive collection is partially framed and hanging in his home, but because of the sheer number of jerseys, he hasn't been able to keep up with displaying them all. He added that finding a way to half-frame them eventually will be necessary.

Ronald Blair’s first NFL jersey exchange was his most memorable. The 49ers defensive end believes the $500 that's automatically deducted from the player's paycheck for a traded jersey is nothing compared to the respect that’s given through each exchange. 

“I know my first exchange was after a game that I played in the preseason against the Jets,” Blair said. “It was one of my college roommates. We ended up playing against each other. He’s a safety, Doug Middleton. Ended up getting his jersey for the first time. It was huge.

"This is the NFL. This is my college roommate, and we’re playing against each other. This is such a great symbolic moment that I will definitely cherish for the rest of my life. 

49ers defensive end DeForest Buckner has swapped jerseys with players with whom he has trained, as well as former Oregon Ducks teammates. Once he has his mancave, jerseys acquired from Michael Bennett, Kiko Alonso and Jonathan Stewart will be on display.

“Sometimes, it just happens,” Buckner said. “Then you get that money out your check. It’s like five hundred, but it’s worth it making those memories.” 

[RELATED: 49ers to wear white throwback jerseys vs. Seattle]

One 49ers player who's waiting for that moment when someone runs up and asks to exchange jerseys might surprise some. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has planned trades with friends, but he still hasn't been asked to swap in a spontaneous postgame moment.  

“Not yet," Garoppolo said with a chuckle. “Maybe it will come, though. Yeah, maybe.” 

How Jerick McKinnon impacts 49ers' negotiations with Raheem Mostert

How Jerick McKinnon impacts 49ers' negotiations with Raheem Mostert

49ers running back Raheem Mostert wants a raise or to be traded. The problem for him is, he doesn't really have any leverage. Regardless of what he deserves, that's just the reality of the situation.

San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan favors a running back-by-committee approach. He will be able to employ that, regardless of whether or not Mostert wants to be a part of it. The 49ers have ample depth at the position, even after trading Matt Breida earlier in the offseason.

Tevin Coleman isn't going anywhere. Cutting him would result in a $2 million dead cap hit, and San Francisco can't afford to waste cap space at the moment.

Jeff Wilson scored five touchdowns on 30 total touches last season. He seemed to make a play whenever given an opportunity, and the coaching staff has plenty of faith in him.

The 49ers also signed undrafted free agents JaMycal Hasty and Salvon Ahmed, who originally might have been ticketed for the practice squad, but there's a reason why San Francisco pursued them. Shanahan has a long track record of creating productive rushers out of thin air, and Mostert's performance last season only backs that up.

But there's one major wild card in San Francisco's backfield: Jerick McKinnon.

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

Having signed a four-year, $30 million contract with the 49ers on the opening day of free agency in 2018, McKinnon was hand-picked by Shanahan to transform San Francisco's offense. Though never a bell cow, he offered the speed and matchup versatility that Shanahan covets. McKinnon rushed for 570 yards and hauled in 51 receptions for another 421 yards in his final season before joining the 49ers, and in Shanahan's system, the possibilities were endless.

And then, all dreams were dashed.

McKinnon tore his ACL one week before the start of the 2018 season, and then sat out the entirety of the 2019 campaign after requiring additional surgery. After not stepping foot on the field in a single game over his first two seasons with the franchise, McKinnon agreed to a pay reduction for the 2020 season that will see him make $910,000 in base salary, a sign of his commitment to the team. He was scheduled to make $6.8 million in 2020 prior to the restructuring.

Given his injury history, the 49ers would be wise to be cautious with their dependence on him. That said, he has had nearly a full year to recover from the most recent surgery, and last month his trainer said McKinnon is "in the best shape of his life."

He had been working with Rischad "Footwork King" Whitfield, and on Wednesday, McKinnon posted more workout videos to his Instagram Story.

The 49ers are optimistic they'll finally be able to unleash McKinnon this coming season, with Mostert recently going so far as to predict that McKinnon will "surprise people." If he's healthy, there's no doubt Shanahan will be itching to involve him in the offense, creating yet another potential matchup nightmare for the opposing defense. Plenty can happen between now and then, but San Francisco has to be feeling good about the progress the "Jet" has put on tape.

[RELATED: How Mostert's 49ers trade demand shows price of success]

If the 49ers go into the season feeling like they can count on McKinnon, Mostert inevitably will get fewer touches. There are only so many to go around, especially with receivers Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd liable to take a few of their own. Mostert rightfully feels like he deserves a significant raise, but that's under the assumption he is going to be the lead back in Shanahan's system.

That might still be the case, regardless of McKinnon's status. But the 49ers haven't forgotten about McKinnon, and until they do, the odds are against Mostert getting what he wants.

What Raheem Mostert's agent says client wants in 49ers trade demand

What Raheem Mostert's agent says client wants in 49ers trade demand

Raheem Mostert's trade demand carries another motive, according to his agent.

Within an hour of announcing Mostert's trade demand Wednesday, Brett Tessler told NFL Media's Ian Rapoport that Mostert "simply" wants his salary "in line" with teammate Tevin Coleman's.

Coleman's $4.55 million base salary is nearly $2 million more than Mostert's $2.575 million, according to Over the Cap. Mostert's salary is not guaranteed, whereas $2 million of Coleman's became guaranteed on April 1. Coleman can earn nearly $4.9 million after workout and roster bonuses, and Mostert can make up to $2.825 million if he hits all his roster bonuses.

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

Mostert (151) and Coleman (158) had nearly the same number of total touches during the regular season, with each player rushing an identical 137 times. But Mostert led the team in regular-season rushing yards (772) and rushing touchdowns (eight), becoming the 49ers' top back down the stretch and having over twice as many carries (117) and touches (126) as Coleman (55; 58) from Week 13 onward.

Prior to that stretch, Mostert had 113 rushing attempts and 127 touches in the preceding 31 games. Coleman, meanwhile, signed with the 49ers as a free agent in 2019 after averaging 165.5 touches per season in four years with the Atlanta Falcons.

[RELATED: How Mostert's 49ers trade demand shows price of success]

Whether the 49ers meet either of Mostert's demands remains to be seen.

He still has two years left on his contract (including 2020), and the 49ers currently have the NFL's eighth-highest salary-cap number on running backs. San Francisco has just over $12 million in salary-cap space, but that number conceivably could diminish if star tight end George Kittle's contract extension includes a reworked 2020 cap number.

Kittle's set to count just over $2.2 million against the cap this season. Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, who has the NFL's highest cap number at the position, counts just shy of $12.5 million against the cap.