49ers Players Who Should Be on the Trade Block After Week 3

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistSeptember 29, 2021

49ers Players Who Should Be on the Trade Block After Week 3

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Despite a Sunday Night Football loss to the Green Bay Packers, the San Francisco 49ers are looking like contenders through three weeks of the 2021 season. 

    This is the point in the season where teams are figuring out whether they should be buyers or sellers when the NFL trade deadline comes around. 

    At this point, the 49ers would likely be buyers. In the cutthroat NFC West, any small improvement can help put a team over the top. The Niners are a game behind the undefeated Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals.

    But the NFL deadline isn't always quite like the NBA or MLB. Sometimes it's still worth selling off some pieces if it means netting draft picks that can help you down the road. 

    Even with a hot start, it's still worth taking a look at who the Niners could dangle in trade talks to bring back draft capital or even figure out a player-for-player swap, much like the trade the Panthers just completed to bring C.J. Henderson into the fold in a deal in which they shipped off Dan Arnold. 

    These three players could be dealt for the long-term good of the roster while still allowing them to compete this season. 

QB Jimmy Garoppolo

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    To this early point in the season, Jimmy Garoppolo is playing well enough for the 49ers to win games. He's completed 67.4 percent of his passes, thrown four touchdowns to just one interception and has 8.4 adjusted yards per attempt

    That's all pretty much in line with Garoppolo's career averages. It's what the team has come to expect from their starter. 

    But if that was good enough and they had faith in Garoppolo, it wouldn't make much sense to trade all they did to move up to No. 3 in the draft and take Trey Lance. 

    Garoppolo's numbers have been fine. The team is winning games, but his limitations as a passer are keeping the Niners from being able to throw all over the field. His intended air yards per attempt (5.8) is ranked 34th in the league. 

    Low intended air yards aren't a bad thing on the whole, but Garoppolo isn't throwing outside the numbers beyond five yards, which limits what the team can do in the passing game. 

    Bringing in Trey Lance to finish the season as the starter might make a playoff run more tricky, but it would open up the offense. 

    Dangling a competent starter in the trade market could bring in a good haul. Garopollo's extensive injury history should weigh into the decision as well. He's only played more than six games once in his career.

WR Mohamed Sanu

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    Michael Zagaris/Getty Images

    The usage of Brandon Aiyuk has been a major storyline for the Niners in the early part of the season. The second-year player saw just 47 percent of the snaps in Week 1 and 54 percent in Week 2. 

    Against the Packers, we finally saw Aiyuk a little more unleashed. He registered 60 snaps (86 percent) and hauled in four of his six targets for 37 yards and a touchdown. 

    That playing time came at the cost of Trent Sherfield's minutes on the field. After putting in a strong camp, the former Arizona Cardinal logged 49 percent and 34 percent of the snaps in the opening two games.

    The bottom line is that the 49ers have a core of young, promising wide receivers. Deebo Samuel is producing. Aiyuk is showing signs of life, and there's still a chance that Sherfield's camp wasn't an aberration. 

    But the Niners need to have all three on the field to continue to develop. Looking to deal veteran Mohamed Sanu would allow them to keep their younger options on the field more often. 

    The vet has played 85 snaps thus far this season while only seeing eight targets. Of those targets, he's caught four for just 43 yards, so it isn't as though he's been an explosive threat. 

    If the Niners are able to find a home for him with all of his experience, they should take what they can get for him and focus on youth. 

Edge Dee Ford

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    General manager John Lynch took a big swing when he traded for Dee Ford in 2019. The move has had mixed results, and you can certainly make an argument either for or against the acquisition with the benefit of hindsight. 

    What's clear now is that Ford's usage in San Francisco is not becoming of his hefty price tag. Ford carries the fourth-highest cap number on the team at $8.9 million, per Over The Cap, yet he's only playing 31 percent of the defensive snaps through three weeks. 

    Of course, that's by design. Ford has struggled with injuries throughout his career, and the team wants to keep him fresh. However, they also have Arden Key and Samson Ebukam, who have shown the ability to take on larger roles as pass rushers. They are both hovering around 35 percent of snaps. 

    The 49ers already have quite a bit of cash invested in the defensive line. Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa are No. 2 and No. 3 on the salary-cap-hit list, respectively, and both are playing over 60 percent of the defensive snaps. 

    If the 49ers are able to find someone willing to take on Ford's contract, which has three more years, the defensive line would be just fine, and the team would have some financial freedom. 


    Advanced stats and snap counts from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.