Two things have become immediately apparent in the wake of Deebo Samuel’s recent trade request going public Wednesday: A multitude of teams have interest in acquiring him, but few believe the San Francisco 49ers have any interest in letting him go.
“They do not want to trade him,” one NFL team executive said Wednesday. “At all.”
There’s little reason to disagree, given how instrumental Samuel’s talent and versatility has become to the 49ers' offense under head coach (and now de facto offensive coordinator) Kyle Shanahan. The self-described “wide back” took on a dual role receiving and running the ball last season, transforming him into a first-team All-Pro and arguably the most important player in San Francisco’s scheme.
He found an elite-level niche that was expected to translate into one of the richest (if not the richest) wide receiver contract extensions in the NFL this offseason. Of course, that was before the salary scale was dramatically raised by multiple new wideout deals, including the Las Vegas Raiders’ Davante Adams, Miami Dolphins’ Tyreek Hill and Buffalo Bills’ Stefon Diggs.
Notably, impasses in negotiations for Adams and Hill ultimately ended with them being traded before signing their new deals. That's now apparently the route Samuel wants to take, although a league source told Yahoo Sports on Wednesday that the 49ers have been prepared to put Samuel into the same financial company.
“[The 49ers are] ready to do an extension,” the source said. “But it takes two sides to do a deal and that’s not where it is right now. It doesn’t mean it can’t eventually get back there, but that’s not where it is and it’s hard to say why, exactly.”
Samuel has been cryptic, although his next contract is expected to reflect that playing a high-end hybrid role in a scheme, unlike most other receivers, takes an additional punishing toll on his body. As one general manager put it Wednesday, it’s also why teams are willing to elevate him into the same company as Adams and Hill, who have longer résumés of success.
“What he did last season was really unique and it’s really not something you’d even want to try with most receivers,” the general manager said. “It takes a strong guy physically and mentally and then also just the willingness to do it. To me, that’s why I’d even put him up there with Tyreek, because it’s the special traits that you look for.
“Tyreek has special speed that’s hard to prepare for — for any team. I’d say Deebo’s versatility and ability to do both things well, better than well, out wide and however else you get him the ball … it’s special at his position, too.”
Another general manager in the wide receiver market this offseason was asked if he would put Samuel’s trade value in the same realm as Adams and Hill, who both commanded first-round draft picks and more.
“Definitely, yes,” the GM said.
That doesn’t mean San Francisco will ultimately deal Samuel, of course. It can hold on to him and push him to play out the final year of his deal in 2022, and then apply a franchise tag and hope that an extension can be hammered out. Or the 49ers braintrust could go the way of the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs and listen to offers, hoping that a large enough package — including a first-round draft pick just to start — might change some minds in the building.
Those will be two interesting teams to watch this offseason, given that Green Bay had been poking around the veteran trade market even before dealing Adams and the Chiefs still have to fill the void Hill left behind. However, it stands to reason that either of those teams could have held onto their No. 1 wideouts in the first place, rather than dealing similar compensation for someone who is unfamiliar in the system and requires the same max-level receiver deal.
Other teams are also looking at wideouts in next week's draft, including the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles. None have been as aggressive about pursuing possible trade targets than the New York Jets, who missed out on Hill but have continued to do work on other possible trade candidates. The Jets have the fourth and 10th overall picks in the upcoming draft and are widely believed to be locked in on taking a receiver with one of them.
The questions for the Jets will be similar to what they are for every inquiring team. What do they think about Samuel’s track record, which includes one monster season followed by two others riddled with injuries? Would he draw a larger trade package than the multiple picks given up in the Adams and Hill deals? And finally — most important— do the 49ers have any intention of seriously weighing trade offers?
If the answer to the final question is yes, then Samuel will likely be dealt before the draft. And the measure of where is ultimately going to be determined by how teams feel about the first two questions.