49ers' Top Trade Targets Entering 2021 NFL Offseason
The San Francisco 49ers didn't quite get to where they wanted to be in 2020. A year after falling just short in the Super Bowl, San Francisco finished just 6-10 and out of the playoffs. Injuries were part of the problem, of course, but the 49ers also got less-than-ideal play from their roster far too often.
With players like Solomon Thomas, Richard Sherman, K'Waun Williams, Trent Williams and Jaquiski Tartt slated to hit free agency, a rebuild could be on the horizon in San Francisco. If the 49ers want to maximize their roster and get back into the playoff picture in 2021, they may have to consider augmenting free agency and the draft with a trade or two.
Here, we'll examine the top trade targets for the 49ers to consider entering the 2021 offseason. Factors like team fit, team need and player potential will be considered. However, we'll be operating in the realm of the hypothetical to some degree, as they may require some work on the salary cap to complete.
The 49ers are projected to have just over $11 million in cap space this offseason. That's an issue we'll leave up to the front office to sort out.
According to NBC Sports' Peter King, the 49ers were interested in trading for Matthew Stafford, who ultimately landed with the rival Los Angeles Rams. If we're to assume that San Francisco is looking for an upgrade over Jimmy Garoppolo and wasn't simply in love with Stafford, then Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson should be at the top of their trade list.
Watson, a 25-year-old three-time Pro Bowler, is one of the few truly elite young signal-callers in the NFL. He's also looking for a way out of Houston. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Watson has officially asked the Texans for a trade.
With Watson at the helm of the offense and players like George Kittle and Nick Bosa back to 100 percent, this potential deal could immediately put San Francisco back into the Super Bowl conversation.
While it would take some work for the 49ers to come up with the necessary trade capital—and the cap space—to get a deal done, Watson should be high on Kyle Shanahan's wish list.
Again, we're operating on the assumption that the 49ers are ready to move on from Garoppolo.
Trading for Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan would be similar to trading for Stafford in that it would land San Francisco an older but still very good signal-caller who can help the team win now. Ryan, though, would bring the added benefit of experience with Shanahan—the two reached the Super Bowl together with Atlanta in the 2016 season.
While Atlanta may not be eager to dump its quarterback, the option to trade Ryan and/or wideout Julio Jones is on the table for the new regime.
"Give us a plan," Team president Rich McKay said, per Jeff Schultz and Tori McElhaney of The Athletic. "Show us what you want to do and show us why. Show us how this gets us to W's and make sure you actually execute the plan."
Given Shanahan's history with Ryan, this is a logical pairing if the 49ers can find a way to pull the trigger.
Shifting away from the quarterback position, we have a potential trade target who doesn't necessarily fill a major need but could still help the 49ers be a better team.
San Francisco already has an elite tight end in Kittle, but he has missed 10 games over the past two seasons. The 49ers utilized Jordan Reed as insurance for Kittle and as a two-tight-end complement in 2020. Trading for Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz could give them an even better secondary option in 2021.
Ertz is likely on his way out in Philadelphia, as he has been replaced by Dallas Goedert as the team's primary pass-catching tight end. However, Ertz has a year left on his contract and should be a prime trade candidate this offseason—Philadelphia could save nearly $5 million in salary by moving him.
If the Eagles eat the dead money remaining on Ertz's deal, he wouldn't be a particularly expensive option for San Francisco, and one the 49ers could fit under the cap now.
It's hard not to think that Shanahan could cook up some nightmarish scenarios for opposing defenses with both Kittle and Ertz on the field together. Ertz might not be an obvious trade target, but he's one whom the 49ers absolutely should consider.
*Contract and cap information via Spotrac.