Deshaun Watson

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 week, NBC Sports Bay Area will theorize hypothetical front-office acquisitions for each of our teams. Today, we examine a potential move the 49ers could make.

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)

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

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.

How 49ers-Bears 2017 trade looks with Mitchell Trubisky option declined

How 49ers-Bears 2017 trade looks with Mitchell Trubisky option declined

Both of the centerpieces of the 49ers’ blockbuster trade with the Chicago Bears in 2017 have uncertain futures with their respective teams.

The 49ers traded the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft to the Bears for the No. 3 pick, a third-rounder (No. 67), a fourth-rounder (No. 111) and a 2018 third-round pick (No. 70). San Francisco picked defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, and Chicago selected quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

It turned into a deal that both teams would mostly like to forget. The Bears and 49ers reportedly declined each player’s fifth-year option within a day of one another.

Trubisky was selected before elite QBs Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, both of whom would’ve been far better choices for the 49ers and Bears. San Francisco did manage to select a defensive staple with one of Chicago’s picks, but general manager John Lynch’s maneuvering during his first draft ultimately didn’t turn into much -- with one notable exception.

The 49ers used the 2018 third-round pick to select linebacker Fred Warner. Warner has been a starter since Day 1, compiling 242 total tackles -- good for 11th in the NFL -- over the last two seasons. He has been a key pieces of the 49ers’ defense that grew into one of the league’s best, and figures to be a long-term fixture at linebacker.

Warner was a Pro Bowl alternate last season, but the remainder of the 49ers’ 2017 haul hasn’t come close to those heights.

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

The 49ers traded the Bears’ third-round pick to the New Orleans Saints for a 2018 second-round pick (No. 59) and a 2017 seventh-rounder (No. 229). San Francisco picked Adrian Colbert in the seventh round in 2017, using the 2018 second-rounder to trade up in a deal with Washington to select wide receiver Dante Pettis. Colbert was waived in 2019, while Pettis fell far down the depth chart.

Meanwhile, the Saints used the 2017 third-rounder the 49ers dealt to pick running back Alvin Kamara, who has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three NFL seasons. Washington selected running back Derrius Guice with the 2018 second-rounder, who has only played five NFL games due to knee injuries.

The 49ers used the Bears’ 2017 fourth-rounder to trade up into that year’s first round to draft Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster. San Francisco cut Foster after being arrested on a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence. He landed with Washington, which reportedly declined his fifth-year option. Foster was reinstated from the Commissioner’s Exempt List in April, but he missed the 2019 season after tearing his ACL last May.

[RELATED: Which 49ers' undrafted rookies have chance to contribute?]

While the 49ers still have hope for Thomas and Pettis to take strides next season, you can add Kamara to a list of growing “what-ifs” for San Francisco’s 2017 draft. The aforementioned misses didn’t set the 49ers back in returning to prominence, and they did also land All-Pro tight end George Kittle in the fifth round.

Franchise quarterbacks are hard to find, however, especially on cost-controlled rookie deals. Although the 49ers will take Warner’s production any day of the week, the Bears reportedly declining Trubisky’s fifth-year option is the latest reminder for both teams of what could’ve been.

How 49ers drafting Deshaun Watson in 2017 could've changed NFL history

How 49ers drafting Deshaun Watson in 2017 could've changed NFL history

Editor's note: This story originally was published on March 26.

The No. 2 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft will go down as one of the biggest "what if?" moments for this era of football.

Chicago Bears fans no doubt are tired of hearing about how they swapped picks with the 49ers in order to draft quarterback Mitchell Trubisky instead of Deshaun Watson or 2018 MVP and Super Bowl LIV MVP Patrick Mahomes. The Bears deserve every jab and joke they receive from here until the end of time.

But ... what about the 49ers? Had they not swapped picks with the Bears -- and picked up three other picks in the process -- they could have selected their next franchise quarterback and the sliding-door effect would ripple throughout the NFL.

In NBC Sports Chicago's re-draft of the 2017 NFL Draft, they have the 49ers sticking at No. 2 and selecting Watson after Mahomes, obviously, was taken first overall by the Cleveland Browns. With sports paused and the only thing to keep us busy being podcasts, classic games and household chores, let us dive into this alternate reality where the 49ers draft Watson and see how the NFL world has changed.

With Watson at the helm in Kyle Shanahan's first year as head coach, the 49ers don't lose their first nine games. Watson's magic manifests itself early and he leads the 49ers to a 3-6 record through nine games. Facing an upward trajectory with a young stud quarterback, the 49ers don't receive a trade deadline call from Bill Belichick offering Jimmy Garoppolo or Tom Brady, rumors depending.

Instead, Belichick calls his old friend Bill O'Brien, who still needs a quarterback in Houston, and sends him Garoppolo for a first-round pick in 2018 (O'Brien still doesn't know how trades work in this universe). The Patriots then package the No. 4 overall pick and their own first-round pick to move up to No. 1 and select Baker Mayfield -- who Belichick reportedly loved -- to be the Pats' quarterback of the future.

Back in the Bay, the 49ers, led by Watson and Shanahan's genius, finish the season 5-2, including a win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 10. They head into the offseason with a lot of hope for what could be a special 2018 season.

Still owning their second-round pick which never was traded for Garoppolo, the 49ers draft Dallas Goedert in the second round (since George Kittle was selected No. 4 overall in this alternate 2017 re-draft universe).

Watson opens the 2018 season on a tear, reeling off six straight wins to open the season, and doesn't suffer the same fate as Jimmy Garoppolo did in Week 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs. They enter Week 7 against the undefeated rival Los Angeles Rams looking to make a statement, but their defense can't slow down a healthy Todd Gurley in a 31-17 loss.

They finish the season 10-6, good enough for the second wild-card spot. With the Bears not having the 2018 Trubisky magic dust sprinkled on them, Kirk Cousins -- the 49ers QB who never was -- leads the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC North title. The 49ers' playoff run is short-lived as the Vikings bounce them out with a 28-13 win.

The 10-6 record no longer has the 49ers draft No. 2 overall in 2019, but Nick Bosa still packs his bags for the Bay, as the Raiders move up one spot from now-No. 3 to No. 2 to take the generational pass-rusher they sorely needed.

The 49ers, needing wide receiver help badly, draft Ole Miss's A.J. Brown with the No. 22 overall pick, believing their scouts have a better beat on the Ole Miss prospect than others. They still draft Deebo Samuel in the second round, and now Shanahan has all the toys he could want in Brown, Samuel, Goedert, Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Kendrick Bourne.

Buoyed by the MVP-caliber play of Watson and a Pro Bowl season from Goedert, the 49ers' offense rips through almost every team in its path en route to a 14-2 season and an NFC West title. They still make the trade for Emmanuel Sanders, seeing an opportunity to create the most explosive passing attack in the NFL by adding the veteran receiver.

While the defense isn't as dominant without Bosa, the combination of DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Dee Ford still do a ton of damage. The 49ers exact revenge on Cousins and the Vikings in the NFC Divisional Round and curb stomp Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game.

With Mahomes in Cleveland and not Kansas City, the Chiefs aren't what's awaiting the 49ers in Miami. Instead, it's Tom Brady and the Patriots, looking for Super Bowl No. 7 after dispatching Garoppolo and the Texans in the AFC Championship Game.

Watson and Brady duel deep into the night in South Florida, but the 42-year-old hits Julian Edelman for a 19-yard touchdown with 31 seconds left, giving the Patriots a 34-31 win.

[RELATED: Brady, like idol Montana, chooses to finish career on his terms]

After the game, Brady is mum on his future but knows Mayfield is waiting in the wings.

A free agent, Brady reaches out to his hometown 49ers but is quickly rebuffed after Watson finished second in MVP voting to Lamar Jackson.

With Chris Godwin no longer in Tampa due to the 2017 re-draft, Brady elects to be the poster child for the Las Vegas Raiders, who have an up-and-coming defense spearheaded by Bosa, Malik Hooker (2017 re-draft) and Trayvon Mullen. Jon Gruden promises to get Brady some weapons and promptly fleeces Bill O'Brien for DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, leaving Garoppolo to deal with O'Brien by himself.

Entering the 2020 season, it's expected to be another duel between Watson and Brady for the Lombardi Trophy.

Watson and Shanahan are the NFL's top QB-coach duo and are primed to be kings of the NFC for years to come. The Bears still don't have a quarterback.

We now return you to reality where Brady is a Buc, Bosa, Garoppolo and Shanahan are looking forward to a Super Bowl revenge tour in San Francisco, Watson is trying to get away from O'Brien, Gruden is rolling with Derek Carr again and the Bears ... still don't have a quarterback (sorry, Nick Foles).

It was a fun exercise, though.