The 49ers opened their season with back-to-back wins over the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles, but it has been all downhill since Week 2.
After four straight losses, the 49ers sit at 2-4 but are just one game out of the final wild-card spot in the NFC. However, San Francisco has a number of things to clean up before it can even start thinking about the *extreme Jim Mora Sr. voice* playoffs?!
The Nov. 2 NFL trade deadline is less than a week away. I want to start by noting how unlikely it is that the 49ers will make any notable move to improve the 2021 team. The 49ers have just over $4 million available in salary cap space, per OverTheCap, and general manager John Lynch would like to roll as much money over as he can to plan for extensions for Nick Bosa and Deebo Samuel.
That being said, it's #TradeDeadlineSZN which means we still should look at a few players the 49ers could target should Lynch feel the need to make a move, however unlikely that might be.
A win Sunday against the Chicago Bears could push the 49ers to try and shore up one of their glaring holes while a loss likely will close the book on any buying in the Bay Area.
Xavien Howard, CB, Miami Dolphins
OK, let's start with a move that almost certainly isn't going to happen because the 49ers would need to work all sorts of cap magic to fit Howard's $15.1 million cap hit into their salary cap.
But if they could do it, it's a move that at least is worth a conversation. San Francisco's secondary is the weak part of the defense and there is no long-term answer at cornerback right now. Howard is a lock-down corner who is under contract until 2025. He would check a big box not only for the 2021 49ers but for Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan going forward.
The Dolphins have lost six games in a row and need to start thinking about the future. However, Miami owns the 49ers' first-round pick, so the Dolphins have little incentive to help the 2021 49ers get better. What is the price for an elite corner? Could a third- and fifth-round pick get it done? Perhaps. But the 49ers also want to acquire more draft capital not further deplete their stash.
If the 49ers could find a team to offload Jimmy Garoppolo onto then they would be able to fit Howard's contract in, but a deal is far from likely.
Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts
Lynch already has said the 49ers did their due diligence by checking in with the Colts on Mack.
Rookie running back Elijah Mitchell has been a pleasant surprise when healthy, but fellow rookie Trey Sermon has been a zero in Year 1. JaMychal Hasty recently returned and the 49ers are expected to get Jeff Wilson Jr. back at some point.
Mack is a solid veteran running back who should come at a low cost and only has a cap hit of $2 million.
The 49ers could use some juice in the backfield, so Mack would be a solid pickup to bolster the ground attack.
Kyle Fuller, CB, Denver Broncos
The 29-year-old corner has fallen out of favor in Denver, as Patrick Surtain and Ronald Darby are cemented as the starting corners.
As discussed, the 49ers' secondary, which is more prone to pass interference penalties than interceptions or pass breakups, needs an influx of talent. Fuller, who will be a free agent in the offseason, likely could be had for a Day 3 draft pick. But fitting in his $9 million cap hit likely wouldn't be worth it for a one-year rental.
Still, Fuller is a name to keep an eye on if the 49ers want to add real talent to the secondary.
Tim Settle, DT, Washington Football Team
Here's one I like.
Settle, 24, is a good interior defensive lineman who isn't getting a lot of snaps in Washington because the Football Team is too deep along the defensive line. Settle is a great interior pass rusher whose 79.2 pass-rush grade since 2020 from PFF ranks 13th among all interior defenders.
Settle's cap hit is just $987,000. He will be a free agent after this season but has shown the type of interior pass-rushing chops the 49ers need more of, especially if Javon Kinlaw fails to stay healthy.
Melvin Ingram, EDGE, Pittsburgh Steelers
The veteran edge rusher hasn't lived up to his reputation in Pittsburgh, but that doesn't mean he has been a bust.
Ingram already has six QB hits, which is one more than he had during an injury-plagued 2020 season, and has received a solid 73.6 overall grade from PFF.
The 32-year has just a $1.6 million cap hit and could give the 49ers some more edge production opposite Bosa. He will be a free agent at the end of the season and likely could be acquired for a late-round draft pick.
The 49ers need more juice on the defensive line and Ingram and/or Settle would be good cheap pick-ups for Lynch if he feels the 49ers can honestly contend this season.
But San Francisco will have to show some life Sunday in the Windy City for that to be the case.