The San Francisco 49ers are stuck in a four-game losing streak. They opened the season with wins over the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles, but they have faced a tough schedule and struggled. Starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has missed time, and backup Trey Lance is currently injured. The 49ers could punt the season, but they do not own their first-round pick. San Francisco needs to squeeze as much as possible from this season.
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The 49ers’ Current Status
Current Record: 2-4
Division Standings: Third in the NFC West
In the Playoff Picture: No
Buyers or Sellers: Buyers
Current NFL Draft Slot: 10th Overall
Potential Trade #1: 2022 second-round pick to the New York Jets for Marcus Maye
While Maye seems to want to stay in the green side of East Rutherford now, another high draft pick could send the Jets into sell mode. After being sidelined with an ankle injury, Maye returned to the lineup in Week 7 for the Jets. Maye has not been quite as good as he had been in recent years, but he has a solid track record, warranting a high pick in a trade. Maye is currently on a franchise tag, and he is looking for a long-term deal. San Francisco could give him that deal while the Jets avoid a Jamal Adams scenario.
Maye would be a versatile piece in the San Francisco secondary. He has played at least a dozen snaps in both safety spots and as a slot corner in each game in 2021. He is a generally reliable tackler, and he plays well in both run defense and coverage. San Francisco has dealt with a bevy of secondary injuries, and a piece like Maye would be a valuable chess piece. The 49ers might not want to deal a second-round pick, thereby losing their top two picks of the draft. However, it could be a worthwhile investment for 2021 and beyond.
Potential Trade #2: 2022 third-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for Fletcher Cox
The Eagles continue selling, sending their third piece out of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia is sitting at 2-5, a distant 3.5 games out of first place in the NFC East. Cox will turn 31 during December, and he does not match Philadelphia’s timeline. Whether Philadelphia wants to go with Jalen Hurts or a 2022 quarterback, Cox (and other pieces) should be up for grabs to help replenish a fairly weak roster. Cox has not been at his peak this season, and his contract hurts the potential trade return. Prime Cox would be worth a first-round pick (and perhaps more), but an older Cox may only fetch a mid-round pick. San Francisco can supply a third-round pick here.
A third-round pick does seem cheap for a six-time Pro Bowler, but Cox is a massive financial commitment in 2022. If the 49ers were to add Cox, they would have two cap hits of at least $26 million with Cox joining Garoppolo. This move would likely force Garoppolo out of town. With Lance and his rookie deal as the starting quarterback, Cox’s contract would be much easier to swallow. From a team perspective, the 49ers have been gashed on the ground all season, and Cox would help. He is a solid run defender, but his top quality is his pass-rushing. Cox would not need to be a long-term option as the 49ers have Javon Kinlaw (barring injury concerns). Cox would be a win-now move, taking advantage of Lance’s contract.
Potential Trade #3: Brandon Aiyuk and 2022 fifth-round pick to the Cleveland Browns for Odell Beckham
Aiyuk has had an abysmal 2021 season. Sure, he is one of San Francisco’s 2020 first-round picks, but the 49ers seem to have no interest in using him as such. The saga of Aiyuk devolving from a breakout candidate to perhaps the most disappointing player in the NFL is not different from Beckham’s tenure in San Francisco. The compensation would be difficult to discern here as both receivers have been disappointing this season, however. Cleveland is likely incurring the bigger risk, so San Francisco might have to tack on a late-round pick. For San Francisco, they cash in on any residual value Aiyuk has while getting out of the current awkward situation.
Beckham is nearly impossible to quantify because he has not played particularly well with Cleveland. In 2020, he missed most of the season with a torn ACL. This season, he missed the first two weeks of the season, and he has not developed any chemistry with Baker Mayfield. Beckham has been a mixed bag in 2021, flashing his usual route-running prowess. However, he already has a pair of drops, and he only has one vintage performance this season. For Cleveland, they might make a trade like this because they are buyers, too. In this, San Francisco and Cleveland swap disgruntled receivers in the hope of a win-win trade. The Beckham and Cleveland marriage could be divorced with a shiny new toy.
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