Proposed 49ers Trade Sends Rising Star Linebacker to Cowboys

Dre Greenlaw

Getty Wide receiver Robert Woods #17 of the Los Angeles Rams is tackled by middle linebacker Fred Warner #54, linebacker Dre Greenlaw #57 and free safety Jimmie Ward #20 of the San Francisco 49ers during the game at Levi's Stadium on December 21, 2019 in Santa Clara, California.

No NFL team ever wants to part ways with young, promising talent, but the San Francisco 49ers may look to cash out on one defender with the Dallas Cowboys.

San Francisco is going to have cap space problems for the foreseeable future. With only $2.5 million in cap space for 2022, the Niners will have to get creative to sign stars like wide receiver Deebo Samuel and defensive end Nick Bosa to big contract extensions.

This isn’t accounting for free agency moves or other contracts that will have to come down the road, like what wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk might get after his third season in 2023. Something’s got to give, and the 49ers may as well trade a talented player they’re not resigning rather than let them walk away for free.

This is where Bleacher Report’s Alex Ballentine’s new trade proposal comes in. In the story, 24-year-old Dre Greenlaw is listed as a top trade target for the 49ers.

“After signing Fred Warner to a five-year, $92.5 million deal, the Niners might not be willing to spend big on another linebacker,” Ballentine writes. “Greenlaw’s athleticism and ability to play in coverage would make him an ideal running mate for [Micah] Parsons.”

The thought of Greenlaw and Parsons patrolling the field is certainly an enticing thought, but if the Cowboys end up wanting Greenlaw, they’ll need to pony up.

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Cowboys Need a LB

The primary reason this trade makes sense from a Dallas perspective is that they have two linebackers getting ready to test free agency in Keanu Neal and Leighton Vander Esch. Neither provided elite production in 2021, which means they’re not guaranteed to return.

Like the Niners, the Cowboys have a leader and star linebacker in Parsons. In his rookie season, the former Penn State standout totaled 13 sacks and 84 tackles on his way to being selected as the Defensive Rookie of the Year and to the All-Pro first team.

As Ballentine points out, Greenlaw would be a huge addition to allow Parsons to do what he does best.

“Micah Parsons is a core piece to the defense, but his production lined up as edge defender makes the Cowboys’ need for off-ball linebackers even greater.”

Greenlaw is coming off a 2021 season sidelined by injury, but his 135 solo tackles in 32 games and 5.1% missed tackle rate tells the tale: he hits hard, doesn’t miss and can make plays all over the field.

Greenlaw’s Value

Greenlaw may be a fit for the Cowboys, but the value has to be right for San Francisco. So, what can the Niners get for the 24-year-old?

ESPN NFL insider Jeremy Fowler considered the idea of Greenlaw going on the move, and predicted his valuation.

“The 49ers paid their top linebacker, Fred Warner, $95 million over five years,” Fowler wrote. “Allocating resources for a second linebacker is a tough ask. Greenlaw, a 2023 free agent, has played well enough to attract some teams willing to give up a mid-to-late-round pick and extend him.”

If it’s an NFC rival like the Cowboys, the 49ers may want to hold out for more than a mid-to-late pick. It’s hard seeing them getting anything more than a third-rounder for Greenlaw, but that would be a nice return after a few years of service from the former Arkansas Razorback.

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