The 49ers found a taker for linebacker Kwon Alexander, whose big salary meant he had no long-term future with the organization.
The 49ers swung a trade Monday to send Alexander to the New Orleans Saints for a conditional fifth-round draft pick and linebacker Kiko Alonso, a league source confirmed to NBC Sports Bay Area.
Alonso is on the physically unable to perform list due to a torn ACL in his right knee, an injury he sustained in the Saints’ playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings in January. Alonso is not signed beyond this season. He may never even put on a 49ers uniform.
This trade is all about Alexander’s departure and the 49ers’ ability to receive a much-needed draft pick for next year.
The 49ers shed approximately $2.5 million of Alexander’s pay for the remainder of this season. They pick up half of Alonso’s $1.7 million salary, which makes the deal more palatable for the Saints.
More importantly, the 49ers wipe Alexander’s scheduled pay of $12.65 million and $12.75 million the next two years from their books.
The 49ers had to clear the financial commitment to Alexander because of a shrinking NFL salary cap for next year. The 49ers need the cap space to enable them to sign linebacker Fred Warner to a long-term extension.
The 49ers and Warner can negotiate a contract extension after this season, and it is possible Warner does not step on the field in 2021 until he has a new deal.
Alexander was expendable because the 49ers get the same (or better) production and more reliability from second-year linebacker Dre Greenlaw at a fraction of the cost.
The fact the 49ers were able to get anything in return for Alexander is a big win for the 49ers. But it also drives home the point that the club whiffed at the opening of the 2019 offseason when they signed Alexander and acquired edge rusher Dee Ford in a trade from Kansas City.
The 49ers got nothing of significance from Alexander, who provided some leadership and energy but little of anything tangible. He missed half of last season with a torn pectoral. Alexander sat out Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks with an ankle sprain.
Ford almost certainly also has no future with the team beyond this season, either. Ford battled a knee issue last season. He appeared this season in Week 1, and remains on injured reserve, out indefinitely, with a back issue.
The 49ers will have to make some roster adjustments after this season to get rid of big salaries and replace some veterans with young players on less-expensive contracts.
Receiving a draft pick in return for Alexander, when he would have been cut anyway, is a good place to start.