Robert Saleh hiring paves way for SF 49ers drafting Zach Wilson

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson Mandatory Credit: George Frey/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson Mandatory Credit: George Frey/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports /

With Robert Saleh being hired by the NY Jets, it could pave the way for the SF 49ers to trade up and take Zach Wilson in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Robert Saleh, the former defensive coordinator for the SF 49ers, has reached an agreement to become the next head coach of the NY Jets.

This hiring will more than likely precipitate even more rumors of the Niners trying to move up in the 2021 NFL Draft to select BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, whose prospects for being the second signal-caller selected on draft day have skyrocketed in recent weeks and months.

With the No. 1-drafting Jacksonville Jaguars all but assured to take Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first pick, the Jets will be on the clock with the second overall pick and a plethora of options to improve their franchise.

One of the first big decisions Saleh and his new front office will need to make is whether or not Gang Green’s current starting quarterback, Sam Darnold, factors into their plans going forward. Early on, the indications are Darnold will stay, but a lot can change between now and when the Jets’ number is called this April.

Darnold has shown glimpses of the franchise-type quarterback the Jets thought they were getting when they drafted him third overall in the 2018 draft.

Yet he has also struggled to find consistency, although a good deal of that could stem from poor coaching in the years since.

Should Saleh and the Jets decide to keep Darnold rather than draft his replacement, the SF 49ers could find themselves in a position to trade up from their current top pick, No. 12 overall, to tab Wilson as their next franchise quarterback. Saleh is looking at a huge rebuilding job in New York, and multiple high draft picks this year and next could be an attractive offer too good to pass up.

He also could very well have some free agents from San Francisco’s roster sign with him this offseason, too. Cornerbacks Richard Sherman, K’Waun Williams, Ahkello Witherspoon, and safety Jaquiski Tartt could find a home with the Jets, having already shown poise in Saleh’s defense.

Back to the would-be draft trade, perhaps Saleh’s relationship with Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch provides an easier, more comfortable negotiation that could be equally beneficial for both teams.

Why an SF 49ers-NY Jets blockbuster NFL Draft trade could work

A potential trade could have the Jets and Niners swapping first-round picks this year, the SF 49ers giving up their second-round pick this year, a first and third next season, and perhaps throwing in a player as part of the deal.

Yes, the price would be steep, but there is a precedent for it.

The Kansas City Chiefs most recently went this route, trading the No. 27 overall pick in 2017, a third-round pick and their 2018 first-round selection to the Buffalo Bills to move up to No. 10 to select quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

That move worked out well.

Now, no one is saying Wilson will be the next Mahomes. But with Shanahan scheming plays and boasting talented offensive weapons Wilson could have at his disposal, including tight end George Kittle, wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, and running back Raheem Mostert, San Francisco’s offense may be taken to the next level.

Shanahan has a history of being able to get the most out of his quarterbacks, even with a rookie under center. You need to look no further than his time with the Washington Football Team as its offensive coordinator when Shanahan had the 2012 No. 2 overall pick, quarterback Robert Griffin III, starting under center.

The result of his rookie season was a 65-percent mark for completions, 3,200 yards, 20 touchdowns, and just five interceptions.

Should Lynch decide the would-be trade price is too high and stick with the team’s current starter, Jimmy Garoppolo, going forward, the SF 49ers will more than likely return to playoff form next season, provided the team can stay healthy.

5 Niners free agents Robert Saleh could take with him to Jets. dark. Next

But if they make the move for Wilson, there is a chance we could see the full Shanahan offense unlocked and set loose on the NFL.

And that is a scary thought for the rest of the league.