Two months have passed since the November 2 NFL trading deadline, but there are analysts out there who often wonder what if the trading market were still open? Particularly for the teams, including the San Francisco 49ers, who are in the hunt for the postseason or for the ones that are already in?
The 49ers are currently in a win-and-in scenario for Sunday, January 9 against the Los Angeles Rams. But are the ‘Niners truly in a prime position to seal a playoff berth? Or are they in a dreamland scenario where if they could go back in time, they would’ve made one more move to solidify their pursuit?
In an article titled “1 Trade Each NFL Playoff Team Wishes It could Make Before the Postseason” written by Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report on Monday, January 3, he began wondering what if the 49ers made one particular move if the trade market were still open and what could that move have done for them.
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And that move Knox brought up involves bolstering their defense by nabbing from a playoff team from a season ago.
Starting Linebacker Mentioned as the 49ers’ ‘Wish’
The starter Knox listed the 49ers “wished” they could trade for? Anthony Walker of the Cleveland Browns.
The same Walker who is 26, has 97 tackles including 63 solo stops in 11 games this season according to Pro Football Reference and lastly, is only in his first season with the Browns.
Knox, though, points out the reasons why he focused on Walker. It has to do with the 49ers’ current linebacker room and their run game production on defense.
“The current No. 6 seed hasn’t been putrid against the run, but the 49ers have struggled at times and are dealing with injuries at the linebacker position,” Knox wrote.
Here’s three items Knox dove into:
Contract: For one, Walker is signed on to a one-year, $3 million contract according to Spotrac. So either way, his future in “The ‘Land” may not be long anyway.
Injuries: Though the 49ers have delivered stout play against the run with their 11th ranking in rushing yards allowed, this unit has been decimated with injuries — notably Azeez Al-Shaair and Dre Greenlaw, who were out against the Houston Texans with an elbow and groin injury, respectively. The 24-year-old Greenlaw hasn’t seen any starting playing action since the season opener on September 12 against the Detroit Lions. Fellow 24-year-old Al-Shaair has been limited to 13 of the 49ers’ 16 games. Starting inside linebacker and Pro Bowler Fred Warner has also seen the injury bug too, missing the Seahawks game with a hamstring ailment.
Rushing Touchdowns: While the 49ers have bottled up running games for most of the season, there is this glaring stat mentioned by Knox — the 49ers have surrendered 17 ground-based touchdowns, making them the seventh-worst NFL team in that category.
Walker does have an extensive background in stuffing the run, so I could see why Knox chose him for this article idea. Here’s some past samples from Walker’s Indianapolis Colts years:
However, the 49ers defense has thrived through the bumps and bruises the unit has endured. Along with fielding a solid run defense, the ‘Niners are sixth overall in passing yards allowed — the best among NFC West teams.
The first two plays of the 49ers’ home 23-7 win over the Houston Texans shines a light on their defensive play.
Could Walker Make His Way to the ‘Niners Anyway?
To reiterate, Walker is set to be available in free agency come March 2022.
Here’s this dilemma on the 49ers’ side: Al-Shaair is among the 29 S.F. players set to enter free agency after this season.
Al-Shaair, despite battling his injuries, has been a strong contributor when healthy. But with him making an average salary of $590,000 per Spotrac and with him posting career numbers per PFR, the incoming restricted free agent could see an increased paycheck this spring from someone.
If it’s not the 49ers for Al-Shaair, Walker could be a possible contingency plan option. But for the time being, this team will carry what they currently have on defense as they aim to finally secure the No. 6 spot in the NFC playoffs.