The San Francisco 49ers need a wide receiver after losing Emmanuel Sanders to NFL free agency, but they may not go after Cleveland Browns wideout Odell Beckham Jr. Here’s why.
Granted, there is a connection between the Niners and Beckham. NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco reported last year San Francisco had an interest in the three-time Pro Bowler back when he was with the New York Giants. But apparently that never-happened transaction would have cost the 49ers their 2019 No. 2 overall NFL Draft pick.
Now, the landscape is awfully different.
Beckham is reportedly back on the trading block again, at least according to ESPN’s Bart Scott. And the Niners are in need of a wide receiver after losing their No. 1 option from last season, Emmanuel Sanders, to the New Orleans Saints in NFL free agency.
Armed with two first-round NFL Draft picks, Nos. 13 and 31 overall, one could make the argument San Francisco would call the Browns to see if they’d be willing to offload their star receiver for one of those two selections. The Niners would still have a first-round asset, most likely, and they’d grab a talented Option A wideout to replace Sanders and help keep the team’s Super Bowl window wide open.
Sounds like a wonderful idea, and it is. But it probably won’t happen. Even Maiocco, whose pulse on the team is awfully accurate, didn’t think the 49ers would go that route:
Currently, San Francisco has $16,756,290 available in cap space, according to Over the Cap. Teams typically reserve around $10 million to sign rookie draft classes. So assuming that’ll be the case for general manager John Lynch, the Niners would have just under $7 million available without making some other changes to the roster this offseason.
Beckham is due $14.25 million this year. And while he has zero in guarantees beyond this season, one has to look at the long-term impacts of taking a player of his stature on. The 49ers wouldn’t want to trade away a first-round pick for a one-year rental, so the only way to make sense of it would be if they hold onto Beckham for at least two or three seasons.
OK, fine. Nothing wrong with that. But as Maiocco pointed out, taking on Beckham would severely hamper the Niners’ ability to extend tight end George Kittle, whose rookie contract runs out in 2020.
It’s all but guaranteed Kittle will end up receiving the biggest contract ever given to a tight end when the negotiating is complete.
The 2020 NFL Draft is awfully deep at wide receiver, and the No. 13 overall pick allows Lynch to target one of the top names in this year’s class. Whether it be Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs III, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb or LSU’s Justin Jefferson, San Francisco stands to benefit from grabbing an impact player right away and keeping him under contractual control for up to six years (a first-round fifth-year option plus a possible franchise tag).
That money is going to be far less than what Beckham is owed.
Simply put, the financials are why the 49ers won’t contact the Browns about Beckham. Yes, he’s an excellent option and would no doubt make the offense better in 2020 and beyond. But by going that route, the Niners would seriously endanger their abilities to retain their best offensive weapon, Kittle.
San Francisco has already shown a bigger desire to sustain long-term success rather than going “all in” right now. One can argue if that’s the right approach or if it’ll be enough, but that’s the apparent method here.
And it indicates the 49ers won’t be going after Beckham this offseason.