Dante Pettis

Why potential 49ers-Texans Dante Pettis trade is intriguing, but unlikely

Why potential 49ers-Texans Dante Pettis trade is intriguing, but unlikely

Dante Pettis hasn’t quite lived up to the billing after being a second-round pick by the 49ers in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Washington product had a decent rookie season, but fell out of the rotation early last season and ended up catching only 11 passes in 2019. He even was a healthy scratch in Super Bowl LIV.

ESPN’s Field Yates believes the 49ers could make a “win-win” trade by sending Pettis to the Houston Texans for fellow 2018 draft pick Keke Coutee.

Coutee is stuck behind a solid trio of wideouts in Houston, as Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb are atop the depth chart. He was drafted in the fourth round two years ago by the Texans, and has 50 catches for 541 yards over two seasons.

Pettis was a dominant returner in college, breaking the NCAA record for punts taken back for a touchdown with nine. He hasn’t had the same impact in the NFL, as he fumbled twice and averaged just three yards per punt return in his rookie season in San Francisco. Perhaps a change of scenery and a second chance in the return game could help Pettis earn some consistent playing time.

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For the 49ers, Coutee is closer to the mold of a slot wide receiver, a position the organization has filled by committee in recent years. Kendrick Bourne got the majority of snaps at the position in 2019, but Coutee’s speed could bring a newfound dimension to coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense. 

Plus, Deebo Samuel’s injury necessitates someone to step up if the second-year wideout doesn’t return for the start of the 2020 season.

[RELATED: 49ers' Deebo Samuel reveals how he broke foot, says he's 'doing well']

It's likely Shanahan and general manager John Lynch want to give Pettis one more year to prove he was worthy of that second-round pick, but if he's buried on the depth chart again this season, the front office could look to move Pettis sometime before the trade deadline.

As Yates noted in the piece, the trade is very unlikely, especially since player-for-player trades aren’t common in the NFL.

But without much going on in the sports world due to the coronavirus pandemic, hypothetical trades are just about all we have.

49ers' Dante Pettis has opportunity with Deebo Samuel, Richie James hurt

49ers' Dante Pettis has opportunity with Deebo Samuel, Richie James hurt

Deebo Samuel, a receiver who can line up just about anywhere in the 49ers’ offensive formation, underwent surgery last week to repair a Jones fracture in his left foot.

Because of the delicate nature of the surgery and recovery, as well as the position Samuel plays, it is just a guess as to when he will be back on the football field. He says it will take 10 weeks for him to return. But that is an optimistic projection from the patient, who has little control of his own recovery.

Richie James, the 49ers' primary return man last season, is on the mend from a broken right wrist. He is expected to miss two months – or at least the first couple of weeks of training camp.

The injuries to Samuel and James put one player above all else in the spotlight. Third-year wide receiver Dante Pettis will be given an opportunity in August – assuming training camp is held as usual -- to improve his status with the team.

Pettis has an opportunity to bounce back from a disappointing second season, that is if his tumble down the team’s depth chart provided him with the spark he needed this offseason to fight for his old spot.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said in February that players who experience problems in their second NFL seasons can go one of two ways.

“They keep being like that, and they usually filter out,” Shanahan said, “or it’s a wakeup call for them . . . and then it usually changes their career.”

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A year ago at this time, Pettis was projected to be the 49ers’ top wide receiver.

After all, he finished his rookie season strong after the 49ers traded up in the second round to select him at No. 44 overall in the 2018 draft.

Pettis impressed Shanahan with his route-running – particularly his ability to get defenders leaning one way, then break off his patterns to create immediate separation. Pettis’ unique ability to run routes has not diminished, but he has to be more willing to take his routes over the middle, into the teeth of defenses.

Pettis sustained a knee injury early in his rookie season and another one later in the season that landed him in injured reserve. But in the six games he was healthy between his two injuries, he caught 24 passes for 371 yards and four touchdowns. That production should have been a mere starting point for his second year in the NFL due to his knowledge of the offense and grasp of his expectations.

Instead, all the promise Pettis showed during the offseason program was rendered meaningless when the team’s coaching staff quickly saw last summer that he did not keep up his work in the six-week period leading up to the start of training camp. His second NFL season was a disaster, as he caught just 11 passes for 109 yards in 11 games. He was declared inactive for the Super Bowl despite being healthy.

The injuries to Samuel and James open doors for Pettis to prove himself – as a receiver and return man. For as long as Samuel is out, it likely would take multiple players to compensate for his loss. But while James is sidelined, all the 49ers need is for one player to step forward.

[RELATEDHow Deebo Samuel's foot heals could make or break 49ers' 2020 season]

If Pettis really wants it, he can get it.

Pettis set an NCAA record with nine punt returns for touchdowns during his career at the University of Washington.

But as a rookie, Pettis did not look confident fielding punts. He fumbled twice and averaged just 3.0 yards on nine attempts. The reason James handled punts last season for the 49ers was because, simply, he was better, Shanahan said. But the coach also made it clear to Pettis the door is open for him to compete for that job in 2020.

“He knows that,” Shanahan said. “I think he’s got a chance to be (the punt returner). But we felt more comfortable with Richie. And I hope Dante tries to take that job from him.

“It’s his decision. He’s got to show it.”

Why hypothetical Jamal Adams-49ers trade would take team to next level

Why hypothetical Jamal Adams-49ers trade would take team to next level

Editor's Note: This story was initially published on May 20, as part of NBC Sports Bay Area's "GM Week," where we theorized hypothetical acquisitions for each of our teams. We're resurfacing Thursday in light of Jamal Adams demanding a trade from the Jets.

The 49ers made the wrong choice with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, but the player they should have chosen instead of Solomon Thomas is not Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes or the Houston Texans' DeShaun Watson.

It's New York Jets safety Jamal Adams.

If there's one NFL player who could take San Francisco's already-dominant defense to the next level, it's him. It would be tremendously difficult -- and costly -- to rectify that draft mistake, but as good as Adams is, it's absolutely worth trying.

The trade 

49ers receive: Jamal Adams

Jets receive: Jaquiski Tartt, Dante Pettis, 2021 second-round draft pick, future pick(s)

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Let me first begin by saying that Tartt is a good-to-great strong safety in his own right, and the 49ers are a different team when he's not on the field. Tartt missed the final four games of the 2019 regular season, over which the 49ers allowed an average of 31.75 points against per game. In the first 12 games of the season -- for which Tartt was active -- they averaged 15.25 points against.

He is a homegrown player who has improved each year and is a critical member of San Francisco's back seven. But, he also is somewhat injury-prone, and most importantly, is entering the final year of his contract, for which he carries a $6.275 million cap hit.

If Tartt performs in 2020 as the 49ers hope and expect, he surely will command a hefty salary on the open market, quite possibly north of $10 million per season. And, if he regresses considerably, San Francisco will either have to stick with him or find his replacement.

But in this scenario, I've already done that.

Adams, 24, is more than three years younger than Tartt and already is a superior player. He has been selected for the two most recent Pro Bowls, and last season, was named a First-Team All-Pro and ranked the 37th-best player in the NFL Top 100. Pro Football Focus graded him as the fifth-best safety in all of football, who excelled both as a blitzer (second-best) and in coverage (seventh-best). His 6.5 sacks led all defensive backs, despite missing the first two games of his career.

So, why on earth would the Jets entertain offers for him? Well, they already did -- at last season's trade deadline. That didn't sit well with Adams at the time, and from the sounds of it, the situation hasn't improved all that much. Adams had made it clear he wanted a contract extension this offseason, but the Jets, so far, only have picked up his fifth-year option. He skipped New York's voluntary offseason program in protest, and the relationship between player and organization certainly appears to be somewhat rocky.

Adams reportedly wants to be the highest-paid safety in the NFL. If the Jets ultimately don't want to pay that -- or if the situation becomes untenable -- then the 49ers would be wise to tempt them with anything reasonable to get a deal done. San Francisco has its own salary constraints to worry about, but given the current contending window, you get the star player and then let cap guru Paraag Marathe do what he does best.

To pry Adams away from New York, however, it's going to cost a pretty penny. This offer, though, might be the kind of package they'd ultimately accept.

In Tartt, they get a plug-and-play replacement for Adams who would allow them to employ the same kind of defense while spending less. He is a quality player who is still in his prime.

Pettis has yet to establish himself with the 49ers, but let's not forget he was a second-round pick two years ago. The Jets are going to go as far as quarterback Sam Darnold will take them, and while they've added a couple receivers this offseason, he can never have enough weapons at his disposal.

Regardless of which players San Francisco would offer in return, it's highly unlikely the Jets would accept a package without ample draft compensation. The 49ers wouldn't offer the same kind of package the Los Angeles Rams ultimately gave up to acquire Jalen Ramsey after getting a front-row seat to the disastrous effects it has had on their roster, but a second-round pick -- or two -- is an entirely different matter.

The money works in both ways in the immediate, and while the 49ers likely would have to do some belt-tightening in relatively short order, it absolutely would be worth it for them. Adams is the ideal player to not only help the 49ers capitalize on their current contending window, but also extend it, too.

[RELATED: Saints, Cowboys among top threats to 49ers in loaded NFC]

As for the Jets, well, it might not be worth it for them, but no matter how they end up losing Adams -- if that's what happens -- they're never going to get fair value. The longer they wait, the less contractual control they have over him, and consequently, the offers will get worse and worse.

Adams probably isn't going anywhere for a while, if at all. But if the 49ers have an opportunity to acquire him, they should do anything within reason -- and maybe a little outside of it -- in order to do so.

That's the price to pay to rectify the mistake.