By trading for Christian McCaffrey, the San Francisco 49ers pushed many of their chips to the center of the table. They surrendered four premium draft picks to bring the second-generation NFL player back to the Bay Area, three in 2023 and another in 2024, and will presumably agree to some sort of a contract adjustment to keep McCaffrey with the team moving forward, as he doesn’t have any guaranteed money left on his current contract, according to Over The Cap.
Is McCaffrey a better player than those available in the second, third, and fourth rounds, which are the rounds the picks they surrendered fall in? Most likely, yes, as the All-Pro back is one of just three players in 100 years to pick up 1,000 yards on the ground and through the air in a single season, but in the NFL, no team can rely on the exact same players year after year without introducing new blood into the fray to replace free agency departures.
To remain competitive, the Niners will need to find ways to add young, cheap talents like Aaron Banks and Spencer Burford, who can fill starting roles on sub-$1 million base salaries.
Bill Barnwell Believes Trey Lance Could Recoup a First-Round Pick
Discussing the prospects of going all-in on a veteran team looking to win now instead of looking to soft reboot the offense around a young signal caller coming off of a season-ending injury, Barnwell laid out the pros and cons of trading away Lance ahead of his third professional season.
On one hand, trading for McCaffrey makes more sense if Lance is the quarterback, given that he’ll be relatively cheap in 2023 and possibly still in 2024. Lance’s fifth-year option doesn’t come due until 2025, meaning the 49ers can easier surround him with plenty of expensive talent next season, even given the other contracts they have to complete this upcoming offseason.
On the other, one way to get back draft capital back is to trade Lance. If the 49ers think he isn’t the quarterback they believed they were getting in 2021, the haul they sent away to acquire him is a sunk cost. There would still be teams interested in acquiring Lance to be their quarterback of the future, even if he struggled with the 49ers.
Theoretically, adding an expensive running back who can impact the offensive game in both the passing and rushing game is a perfect way to help a young quarterback ease into the professional game, but if San Francisco doesn’t believe that Lance can be their guy moving forward, then that doesn’t particularly matter, nor does the price they paid to acquire him all the way back in 2021.
Kyle Pitts to the San Francisco 49ers?
After laying out the case for keeping and trading away Lance, Barnwell suggested a potential deal that could change the trajectory of the two franchises for the foreseeable future.
“In this scenario, which would probably require a deep playoff run and excellent work on the offense, the Niners would re-sign (Jimmy) Garoppolo to an extension this offseason,” Barnwell wrote. “Lance still probably would net a late first-round pick or early second-round pick in return.
“I will admit the trade I keep coming back to — given Atlanta’s desire to run the ball and Shanahan’s stockpiling of positionless playmakers — is a swap of Lance for tight end Kyle Pitts. I’m not sure that solves the draft capital problem, but it’s fun to argue about.”
Could the 49ers not only acquire a “positionless playmaker” like Pitts this offseason, but do so after re-signing Garoppolo to a new, long-term deal? Considering how hard the 49ers tried to trade Garoppolo this offseason, that seems like a tough ask, but then again, stranger things have and could happen, like trading away a quarterback drafted third overall after just 262 professional snaps.