Last season, Surtain, the star Broncos cornerback, was only in his second year, at just 22 years old. Even with Denver struggling, Surtain made his mark as one of the best cover men in the league, earning a Pro Bowl spot and All-Pro honors.
This year, the Broncos are worse, 0-3 and coming off a 70-20 disaster of a loss to Miami in which the team appeared to quit altogether. And while Surtain has not made a show of his dissatisfaction with the organization, his father, Patrick Surtain, has.
“Toiling in the soil!! SMH 2 you deserve better,” tweeted Surtain, the “2” referring to his son.
The sentiment might not carry all that much weight—parents blaming others for their children’s problems is nothing new—except that Surtain the First was quite the talented defensive back himself, playing 11 seasons for the Dolphins and Chiefs, and winning an All-Pro honor to go with three Pro Bowls, too.
And for the folks at SB Nation, Surtain’s dead-end situation in Denver is a clear 49ers opportunity.
“It’s worth wondering whether his father’s public displeasure is a sign that his son will soon attempt to force his way out of Denver. If he does, the San Francisco 49ers have every reason to try and make the acquisition,” wrote Mark Delucchi of the SB 49ers site, “Niners Nation.”
49ers Would Have to Offer Multiple Draft Picks
Certainly, San Francisco has the means and the motive for a Surtain pursuit. According to Spotrac, the 49ers have $44.5 million in cap space on hand, which gives them an advantage in the pursuit of any star player ahead of the NFL’s October 31 trade deadline.
But one problem for the 49ers when it comes to Surtain is that he’s still on his rookie contract, with a cap hit of $5.7 million. The team’s big advantage of being able to take on a big contract would be all but nil for Surtain. There are 16 other NFL teams who could absorb his deal without going over the cap.
That means there would be more competition. A trade for Surtain would at least cost a first-round pick, and because the 49ers are likely to finish with one of the Top 3 or 4 records in the league, their pick is expected to be around No. 30-32. The Broncos would much prefer a pick that can potentially land in the Top 15 or 20.
But, as Delucchi points out, “the Niners also have six picks in the first four rounds of the 2024 NFL Draft, including their own first and second-round picks. That’s before incorporating compensatory picks from last year’s free-agent class. Over the Cap projects the 49ers to receive an additional third, fifth, and three sixth-round picks from the teams’ departures.”
So, though the 49ers won’t be able to offer a high-quality first-rounder, they could offer a first-rounder packaged with other picks to pull Denver into a deal.
Defensive Back is a Need for 49ers
And the 49ers do have some cause to consider a player like Surtain. San Francisco is packed at every position on the field. Heading into the season, Pro Football Focus ranked every unit in the NFL, and the 49ers were sterling, nearly across the board. The team’s linebackers and running backs were No. 1, the defensive line was No. 2 and the wide receivers were No. 4.
The only units that were not in the Top 4 were the offensive line (18) and the defensive backs (9), which had lost top slot safety Jimmie Ward in the offseason.
The 49ers have yet to face a potent offense here in 2023, so it is difficult, exactly, to size up the strength of the team’s defensive backs. But every NFL team could use a young player like Surtain. Especially one with Super Bowl hopes like the 49ers.