Why The San Francisco 49ers Should Honor Deebo Samuel’s Trade Request
San Francisco 49ers star wide receiver Deebo Samuel shocked the NFL world earlier this month by reportedly requesting a trade from the team after just three seasons.
Samuel, 26, is coming off an absolutely brilliant 2021 season and is eligible for an extension for the first time in his career.
Previously, a report broke that San Francisco had offered Samuel $19 million annually with the All-Pro receiver rightfully demanding roughly $25 million on a per-year basis. That’s a dramatic difference.
More recently, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported that Samuel told the 49ers he doesn’t even want to receive a contract offer. Rather, he simply wants out of town.
“I would say that is correct that Deebo Samuel has not received an offer from the 49ers. From my understanding, he basically told them, ‘I want to be traded. Don’t make an offer.’ I don’t think this is about money,” Ian Rapoport on the Pat McAffee Show.
Right now, it’s anyone’s best guess what is happening behind the scenes. San Francisco tends to keep everything close to the vest. Until general manager John Lynch speaks to the media in his pre-draft press conference on Monday, we’re not going to hear anything from the organization. In fact, it would be a surprise if the usually tight-lipped Lynch gives us anything of substance during the annual presser. It’s a guessing game.
What we do know is that Samuel’s social media activity and unwillingness to push back against reports that he has requested a trade tells us a major story. He’s unhappy with the organization and wants out. Below, I look at why the 49ers should honor his trade request
San Francisco 49ers Talk About Winning Culture
Since joining the 49ers’ organization ahead of the 2017 season, Lynch has talked about a winning culture on a near never-ending loop. It’s in this that he’s been in lockstep with both head coach Kyle Shanahan and team CEO Jed York.
Back in January of 2020, York talked about the release of former first-round pick Reuben Foster as a defining moment in the Lynch/Shanahan tenure.
“I don’t know that that would have been the case with every other coach or every other general manager – not just here, but across the league – because it’s hard to give up on talent,” York said, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “And I think that, to me, is one of the defining moments of John and Kyle of being able to say, ‘This was a first-round pick in our first year and we moved on from it, and it was hard.”
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I am not comparing Samuel’s situation to Foster. That would be foolish. But when we talk about a winning culture, that extends to the locker room and players actually buying in. Right now, it’s rather clear that Samuel does not want to be in said locker room in Santa Clara.
In short, retaining Samuel against his wishes would create a dynamic within the 49ers’ organization that doesn’t define the winning culture Lynch, York and Shanahan continue to talk about.
Deebo Samuel Contract And NFL Wide Receiver Market
The backdrop here is an ever-evolving wide receiver market that has seen big-name players, including Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams, receive absolutely huge extensions.
Hill signed a four-year, $120 million contract with the Miami Dolphins after a trade from the Kansas City Chiefs. After seeing the franchise tag placed on him, Adams was traded from the Green Bay Packers to the Las Vegas Raiders — promptly signing a five-year, $140 million deal with his new team. Meanwhile, Buffalo Bills star Stefon Diggs inked a massive four-year, $96 million extension in Western New York.
What does this all mean? Well, it’s rather simple. Samuel is vastly underpaid while working under his rookie contract. His market is $25-plus million annually. It’s something the 49ers could very well be pushing back against given Samuel is coming off his first Pro Bowl season and has missed 11 games to injury in three years.
San Francisco 49ers Salary Cap Situation
As this entire Deebo Samuel situation plays out, there’s another backdrop here. That includes San Francisco placing a priority on signing star edge rusher Nick Bosa to a contract extension.
“We’ve had good communication with Tory [Dandy] who represents Deebo and Bryan Ayrault who represents Nick,” Lynch said back in March. “We have a plan for each of those guys. We will keep those discussions private but like I’ve long said, those guys are going to be a part of us for a long, long time.”
In hindsight, this is a rather interesting quote. While Samuel has taken his issues to a public forum, Bosa has not done the same. It’s a clear suggestion that contract talks between the former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and his organization are going swimmingly.
Speaking of said contract, it doesn’t take a genius to realize Bosa will break the bank. He’s going to outpace what his brother, Joey Bosa, received from the Los Angeles Chargers back in July of 2020. Bosa inked a five-year, $135 million extension with Los Angeles. In fact, it would not be a shock if Bosa became the highest-paid non-quarterback in NFL history with an average annual salary of $30 million or so.
Some rightfully point out that San Francisco needs to spend with the big boys in order to contend with the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West.
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But it’s not as simple as that. San Francisco has already spent the big bucks on left tackle Trent Williams, tight end George Kittle and linebacker Fred Warner.
Williams remains the highest-paid left tackle in NFL history with an average annual salary of $23 million. Both Kittle ($15 million) and Warner ($19.05 million) reset the markets at their respective positions when they signed their extensions with San Francisco.
It’s not about actually spending money. Rather, it’s about allocation of resources. Whether San Francisco believes that said limited resources should include giving Samuel $25 million annually after one great season remains to be seen.
Deebo Samuel Trade Value
Kansas City acquired five draft picks from Miami for Tyreek Hill. That included a first and second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Green Bay also received the Raiders’ first and second rounders in this year’s draft for Davante Adams.
Given the fact that Samuel is more than three year younger than both Hill and Adams, this would have to be the starting-off point in trade talks. That’s especially true when comparing what the three did in 2021 and including recency bias.
Deebo Samuel stats (2021): 77 receptions, 1,405 yards, 365 rushing yards, 14 TD
Davante Adams stats (2021): 123 receptions, 1,553 yards, 11 TD
Tyreek Hill stats (2021): 111 receptions, 1,239 yards, 9 TD
Let’s look at the New York Jets as an example. General manager Joe Douglas did not shoot down rumors that they are interested in acquiring Samuel from San Francisco. The team was also in on Hill before he was dealt from Kansas City to Miami.
Any conversation with the Jets would have to start with the 10th pick and young wide receiver Elijah Moore. From there, New York would then have to offer up a couple earlier-to-mid round picks in order to make this work.
From a financial perspective, this could be a cost-effective option for San Francisco. The team was interested in drafting Moore before he was selected by New York in the second-round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The former Mississippi standout is dynamic with the ball in his hands and would be a perfect fit in Kyle Shanahan’s offense with Trey Lance tossing him the rock.
The point here is rather simple. San Francisco still has Elijah Mitchell, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk as top-end skill-position players. If it can get a bounty for Samuel while being able to acquire a cheaper receiver, it’s something John Lynch and Co. must think about.
Regardless, the 49ers are not in a position to deny Samuel’s trade request. It would create a bad dynamic in the locker room with the team set to hand over the keys to the kingdom to Mr. Lance. No one wants to see that.