Why 49ers have all leverage in Raheem Mostert trade demand, contract

Why 49ers have all leverage in Raheem Mostert trade demand, contract

It's entirely understandable why Raheem Mostert would be unsatisfied with his current contract, which prompted the 49ers running back to request a trade Wednesday. 

After bouncing around the league earlier in his career with stops with the Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets and Chicago Bears, Mostert finally found a home with San Francisco. And once he did, he showed what he was capable of.

A standout special teams player, Mostert got an opportunity to showcase his running skills this past season, and it left people wondering how on earth it was possible that he had been waived and/or cut by six different teams.

He led all 49ers running backs with 772 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns during the regular season. His average of 5.6 yards per carry ranked first among all NFL running backs, and only trailed MVP Lamar Jackson for the top mark in the league. From Week 12 on, as San Francisco pushed for and through the playoffs, Mostert's 760 rushing yards trailed only NFL rushing leader Derrick Henry's 1,154 for the most over that span. His 220-yard, four-touchdown explosion against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game was a performance for the ages.

And yet, he basically has zero leverage.

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Mostert is due to make $2.575 and $2.875 million in base salary over the next two seasons. Though his 2020 base salary is considerably lower than Tevin Coleman's ($4.55 million), it's still the 18th-highest base salary among all NFL running backs for the upcoming season. As such, the 49ers could argue he already is being paid like a starter.

Then there's the matter of depth. In addition to Mostert and Coleman, the 49ers have Jeff Wilson and Jerick McKinnon potentially to depend on, not to mention undrafted free agents JaMychal Hasty and Salvon Ahmed. McKinnon was one of coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch's first major free-agent acquisitions. Though he has been limited by injury, the team is optimistic he'll be able to break through in the year ahead.

Speaking of Shanahan, he simply doesn't pay high-end salaries for the running back position. He believes his scheme can get just as much, if not more, out of lower-salaried backs, and Mostert's performance last season only serves to support that stance. That's part of the reason why San Francisco traded Matt Breida to the Dolphins earlier in the offseason. Breida's salary was only going to increase moving forward, so the 49ers added a draft pick while assuming no drop in rushing production.

And really, that's not just a Shanahan philosophy. Teams have smartened up -- well, most of them -- and realized only a select few backs are worth the giant salaries. They make roster-building that much more challenging, and there's an argument that a committee approach is a better way to go. That partially explains why Henry has yet to receive a new contract from the Tennessee Titans. It's also partly why the Cowboys are going to be in salary-cap hell in short order.

Mostert was incredibly productive, but he's not Henry or Zeke Elliot. Granted, he reportedly isn't asking for that kind of money, but it begs the question as to why a team would be willing to cough up assets for Mostert and pay him the salary he is looking for.

NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday, citing Mostert's agent, that Mostert simply wants to make as much as Coleman. If he wants to be the highest-paid running back on a team, there aren't going to be many teams lining up to trade for him.

Again, it's completely understandable why Mostert would want a significant raise. But the fact of the matter is, he is negotiating from a disadvantageous position. If there's limited interest from other teams -- which is likely -- the 49ers are better off retaining him. That would leave Mostert with what are the two likeliest options at this point. Either he'll play for San Francisco, or he'll hold out.

If he holds out, he's doing so at the wrong time, as the new CBA increased penalties for holdouts. Fines were bumped up, and if a player holds out for more than five days without receiving permission from the team, he fails to accrue a year of service -- meaning he'd be no closer to a larger payday.

[RELATED: Kittle cites captaincy, leadership as holdout deterrents]

Given the camaraderie the 49ers have built, there would seem to be motivation on both sides to find a compromise. Perhaps San Francisco could re-work Mostert's contract to provide incentives that, if reached, would get his salary in the realm he is looking for. And given the unprecedented success Mostert has had in Shanahan's system, one would imagine he would want to remain within it, particularly as he edges out of his prime.

Ultimately though, the 49ers have very little reason to budge. Every penny counts in roster building, and San Francisco has far more important -- and lucrative -- contract extensions to work out with more critical personnel. The 49ers surely want to keep Mostert and want him to play, but they won't sacrifice the structure of their salary cap to retain a replaceable player who has very little leverage to begin with.

Pre-training camp 53-man roster projection for the 49ers' 2020 season

Pre-training camp 53-man roster projection for the 49ers' 2020 season

After weeks of Zoom meetings, individual workouts and walk-through sessions, the 49ers are scheduled to hit the practice field for the first time on Saturday in Santa Clara.

Two days later, the team will be in pads for the first time since blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead in a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.

And thus begins the competition as general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan must determine the 49ers' 53-man roster for the regular-season opener on Sunday, Sept. 13, against the Arizona Cardinals.

The 49ers have 80 players in camp, and here is our first look at our early roster projection for the 2020 season:

Quarterback (3)

In: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
Out: None
While it has been a debate in recent years whether to carry two or three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, there is no debate this season. If they kept three a year ago, they sure as heck are going to keep three this season during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Running back (5)

In: Raheem Mostert, Kyle Juszczyk, Tevin Coleman Jerick McKinnon, Jeff Wilson
Out: Salvon Ahmed, JaMycal Hasty, Josh Hokit
The door is open for Ahmed or Hasty to factor into a roster spot as a third-down back behind McKinnon. But with no preseason games, it seems to reason the 49ers would be able to hold on to either of those players for the practice squad, if that’s the direction they want to take.

Wide receiver (5)

In: Kendrick Bourne, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Taylor, Jalen Hurd, Richie James (Deebo Samuel/non-football injury)
Out: Dante Pettis, Jauan Jennings, Tavon Austin, J.J. Nelson, Chris Thompson, Shawn Poindexter
The team seems to be expecting Samuel to miss the first six games of the season as he rehabs from surgery to repair a Jones fracture. But looking at some of his workout videos, it might not be a stretch to think he can return earlier. The 49ers expect to sign veteran receivers Tavon Austin and J.J. Nelson after they had good workouts on Friday morning. Whether either player makes the team to open the season, that’s another question. Of course, the 49ers could keep six receivers on their roster for a while. But it seems it's most likely to come down to one of those veterans or James. We're going to give James the nod because of his return skills. The onus is on Pettis to prove he can bring something to the team after he disappeared last season. Jennings, a late-round draft pick, is going to put up one heck of a fight for a roster spot. Do not rule him out.

Tight end (4)

In: George Kittle, Charlie Woerner, Jordan Reed, Ross Dwelley
Out: Daniel Helm, Chase Harrell
Kittle is a wealthy man. And this year he has a wealth of players around him, too. The 49ers are likely to keep four tight ends again this season because Reed’s availability is not something the 49ers should take for granted.

Offensive line (9)

In: Trent Williams, Mike McGlinchey, Laken Tomlinson, Tom Compton, Daniel Brunskill, Ben Garland, Colton McKivitz, Justin Skule, Spencer Long (Weston Richburg/physically unable to perform)
Out: Williams Sweet, Jaryd Jones-Smith, Kofi Amichia, Ross Reynolds
Garland played well at center to finish last season. There’s no word on the team’s plan for Richburg, but it seems it would be wise for them to take the cautious approach and give him another six weeks of rehab to open the season. After all, he is returning from a torn patellar tendon in his knee. Long, a late addition to the roster, could prove to be valuable as a backup interior lineman.

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Defensive line (9)

In: Arik Armstead, Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, D.J. Jones, Javon Kinlaw, Solomon Thomas, Jullian Taylor, Kentavius Street, Ronald Blair
Out: Dion Jordan, Kerry Hyder, Darrion Daniels, Kevin Givens, Jonathan Kongbo
Blair is coming off a torn ACL, which ended his season in November. If he’s ready to go, he is the clear-cut No. 3 edge rusher. Jordan and Hyder have NFL experience. One of them has a shot to win a spot with an impressive training camp.

[RELATEDHow 49ers rookie Javon Kinlaw's mindset reminds Dee Ford of Nick Bosa]

Linebacker (6)

In: Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Kwon Alexander, Azeez Al-Shaair, Mark Nzeocha, Joe Walker
Out: Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Jonas Griffith
Flanigan-Fowles and Griffith have their chances to win a roster spot if they stand out on special-teams coverage units. Again, with no preseason games, the 49ers stand little chance of losing either to the waiver wire before getting them to return for spots the practice squad.

Defensive back (9)

In: Richard Sherman, Emmanuel Moseley, Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt, K’Waun Williams, Tarvarius Moore, Ahkello Witherspoon, Jason Verrett, Marcell Harris
Out: Jamar Taylor, Tim Harris, Dontae Johnson, Jared Mayden, DeMarkus Acy
There has to be a reason the 49ers re-signed Verrett. And that’s because they believe he has a chance to be an important contributor . . . if he can remain healthy. Moseley is the favorite to start opposite of Sherman, but Verrett and Witherspoon will look to jump into that competition. Harris should stick around on the practice squad, for sure.

Specialists (3)

In: Robbie Gould, Mitch Wishnowsky, Kyle Nelson
Out: None
Now that this group will be back for a full season, expect things to go a lot better from the beginning than a year ago.

49ers' Fred Warner, A's Tony Kemp advocate for voting in fall election

49ers' Fred Warner, A's Tony Kemp advocate for voting in fall election

Programming note: Watch "Race in America: A Candid Conversation on Friday, August 14 on NBC Sports Bay Area after "Giants Postgame Live."

Whether out of indifference to candidates or as an act of passive rebellion against an unjust sociopolitical system, it’s not uncommon that many Black Americans, particularly among those under 30, dismiss the value of voting.

They tend not to find more reasons to sit out than to sit in. It’s a sentiment understood by 49ers linebacker Fred Warner and A’s utility player Tony Kemp, panelists on Episode 13 of “Race in America: A Candid Conversation,” airing on NBC Sports Bay Area on Friday night.

Neither Warner, 23, nor Kemp, 28, bothered to use their ballot in 2016 – and they were joined on the sideline by millions of others.

Nearly four years later, both say they will vote – and, based on new registrations, they’ll be joined by millions of others. Experts are projecting 2020 to have the largest and most diverse turnout in American history.

Whereas Warner's new outlook is largely a matter of increased awareness and education, Kemp drew inspiration from a movie.

“I've always been a person that kind of stayed out of politics and just worried about baseball,” he says. “But three years ago, in the offseason, I watched ‘Selma,’ and watching that movie kind of really turned myself into what I needed to be.”

The movie went into wide release in January 2015 and was rereleased in March – the 50th anniversary month of the march across the Edmund Pettus bridge made memorable by the brutal attacks by law enforcement on those, including then-Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee leader John Lewis, seeking the right to vote.

“What Blacks had to go through just for human rights and just to vote,” says Kemp, who spent three years at prestigious Vanderbilt University. “And especially everything that John Lewis got into, the ‘good trouble,’ all those things are just huge.”

[RACE IN AMERICA: Listen to the latest episode]

Voting can be a daunting process, particularly in local elections. It takes considerable time to research the records and principles of candidates that rarely, if ever, appear on TV or radio. Social media makes it easier now than it was 20 years ago, but the credibility of what one finds on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter, can be called into question.

Yet information is by far the most significant factor in making a knowledgeable vote. Warner cites this is as being at the center of his political evolution.

“I had this mindset of like, ‘Well I'm not very educated on it.’ I didn't know who to vote for,” he says. “I was confused about it. I was like, ‘Well I don't want to vote for the wrong person. And also, I didn't feel like my vote really counted. I was like, ‘I'm just one person. What is my vote going to mean, especially if I'm not educated about it?

“Now, I realize I have just as much of a responsibility to vote as anybody else. And in order to make an intelligent and educated vote, I need to make sure I'm doing the work outside of just playing football and going home and watching TV. I’ve got to actually put some time in and make the right decision.”

To that end, the NFL last week announced the formation of “NFL Votes,” a “non-partisan initiative that will support and encourage the civic engagement and voting of NFL players, legends, club and league personnel,” as well as NFL fans.

The project is designed, theoretically, to bolster “Inspire Change,” the league’s social justice reform program, which in partnership with the Players Coalition has had varying degrees of impact.

Sports leagues, franchises and athletes are seizing upon the moment to become voting advocates. The hope is that decisions are based on enlightenment and activation.

“The biggest thing right now is just education,” Warner says. “Educating yourself on who's up for election and what they stand for and everything and making the best decision possible.”

[RELATED: Warner believes Harris pick for VP is "big deal"]

Kemp is taking to Twitter and Instagram, urging people to use their vote. He and his wife, Michelle, recently mailed in county absentee ballots and have a dedicated plan to be at the polls in November.

“That's where (change) starts,” he says. “I think people need to be more educated on it. Hey, if you want something a certain way, and a governor or whoever believes in your certain way, that's who you vote for. I think people just need to start going for it.”

There is a clear divide within our national borders. Current government leadership has been aggressively partisan, one side clinging to old norms and the other generating a potent movement for new norms.

For some, it takes tragedy, such as those that killed George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, for people to get involved. For others, it’s as simple as a story or movie well told.