The Deebo dilemma- It’s complicated
Here is one possibility-
Let us start with what we should know. San Francisco 49ers WR Deebo Samuel fits best in the City by The Bay. I believe his overall value is maximized by both the willingness and the creativity of Head Coach Kyle Shanahan, scheming different ways to get the ball in Samuel’s hands. That should not be a given if he goes elsewhere.
With the ball in his hands, in space, Samuel has just enough competitive speed and short area acceleration to be among the best playmakers in the NFL. His frame and lower body strength make him hard to bring down thus he is adept at breaking arm tackles, resulting in a consistent run-after-catch rate that is tops in the league.
What we should also know is that the 49’ers do not have to trade Samuel. They have leverage with any player who has 3 years of service (one short of being eligible for free agency) and in fact, if Samuel decides to hold out and miss the start of training camp, he loses a chance to accrue a 4th season, even if he reports later and plays every game. The Collective Bargaining agreement addresses this so players, with Deebo’s years of service, really can’t hold out. Both sides have business decisions to make.
Because of his production in 2021, the 49ers have stated that they can’t imagine trading Samuel, who has publicly requested a change of address for reasons somewhat unclear. My guess is that his primary reason starts with not only his usage style but also substance. Part of Shanahan’s strategy with Samuel is using him as a decoy in the passing game, as a blocker, and as a ball carrier out of the backfield in a fashion that, in his mind, may not be sustainable and take a toll on career longevity.
If you haven’t noticed, NFL teams are now paying unprecedented dollars for a premium WR’s and they have financially reached a level where asset allocation of a non-quarterback is a giant decision for team builders around the league. Paying a WR in the $25-28M range is not for everyone. Here is the problem, I’m not sure Deebo is a premiere receiver. He is not a great route runner, like Devonte Adams nor does he have deep speed to just run by people like Tyreek Hill. His value is his combined skill set as a pure football player.
Timing is everything and Samuel clearly feels like his timing is NOW. For him, last year was a perfect storm of both injuries and an opportunity to shine in the 49ers offense and his numbers/production may never be higher.
The reality now is that if second-year QB Trey Lance becomes the starter, as the SF decision makers have planned, Samuel’s receiving numbers will likely decrease. The passing game complexities are likely to drop off with a young and inexperienced QB as the new starter. The 49’er young RB’s (who are very good) are healthy now and Shanahan may not want them to come off the field.
GM John Lynch has many things to consider, I think he has to listen to offers. That’s where things get complicated. The mechanics of a deal like this will follow in this order:
If the 49ers should receive adequate compensation, in their minds, permission to talk contract with Samuel, for the acquiring team, would follow. No team is going to give up what it will take to acquire him without knowing what kind of a contract will be attached. If I am Samuel’s representation, I’d prefer to have two teams involved, similar to the Tyreek Hill situation before he ended up in Miami. It would help to leverage a better contract.
The trade compensation part of the deal complicates things even more. I think it’s going to take more than a first-round pick for the 49ers to even consider parting with Samuel. For example, current rumors have the New York Jets willing to offer the 10th pick in the first round of this year’s draft as well as interest from Detroit and Green Bay (which I really don’t buy).
I don’t believe a first round pick is enough in compensation for the 49ers to consider. It has to be more. In this draft, the 10th position in round 1, could yield what just might be the third WR off the board. That doesn’t move the needle to replace a player like Samuel right now and it simply doesn't make the 49ers a better team.
In order to consider trading Samuel, the brain trust in San Francisco should want much more than another team’s first-round pick and must clearly see the move as a way to GET BETTER, not just get even. If I were Lynch, it would take an additional high pick or two for me to consider trading Samuel as a legit option.
The NY Jets might be willing to do this. They seem desperate and they are four years into a rebuild with a general manager who signed a six-year contract upon his arrival. Joe Douglas has yet to return this team to respectability. The Jets are more than a single player away from turning their franchise around, however, they might feel the need to “win a press conference” instead of continuing their current course just to make Jets fans happy. This team also has draft capital and it seems to be burning a hole in their pockets to do something with it. So, this might be one team to throw in the mix.
The best relocation for Samuel, IMO, might be in Baltimore. The Ravens are looking to appease their star QB, Lamar Jackson, who has yet to entertain an offer for a long-term contract extension. I have no idea if they are interested or not, but Samuel fits scheme wise with an offense that is already considered by some to be a “gadget offense” in style and design.
I actually think Samuel would give them a much-needed weapon in both the run and pass game and offensive coordinator Greg Roman could incorporate his skill set fairly easily. Now we have two teams. That’s a start to put together the mechanics of a deal.
Because a contract will be required, Samuel will have some say in where he goes. If he does not want to go to a particular team, his agent will drive a hard bargain contract-wise. After what we witnessed in Cleveland with Deshawn Watson, we should know that money talks.
In my hypothetical situation, the Jets may offer the 49ers a stronger compensation package, but Samuel may be more attracted to Baltimore as the team that has a better chance of being a playoff contender. If I’m Samuel, I would prefer the Ravens for multiple reasons over the Jets who could be left in a similar spot to what happened to them in the Tyreek Hill deal, just left holding the bag of money.
This deal, like I said, is very complicated and has multiple leverage points that would need to line up in order for it to happen. I just don’t see it coming together in the window that all have forecast- before the draft. Thursday is go-time, so time is of the essence- OR NOT.