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NFL Trade Deadline Notes: 49ers Contenders for Big Swing

The San Francisco 49ers trade a compensatory third-round pick to the Commanders for edge rusher Chase Young.

The trade deadline has passed, and now we are left to analyze the aftermath. One team that has stood out in recent years is the San Francisco 49ers. They have become a model franchise in many ways, particularly in their ability to develop young coaches and executives. This has not only benefited the 49ers but has also caught the attention of other teams, such as the Carolina Panthers, who have started to pursue a similar strategy.

Thanks to the efforts of individuals like Robert Saleh, Martin Mayhew, Mike McDaniel, DeMeco Ryans, and Ran Carthon, who have all gone on to become head coaches and general managers, the 49ers have accumulated a significant number of compensatory third-round picks. These picks have been used wisely, acquiring talented players like cornerback Ambry Thomas, receiver Danny Gray, kicker Jake Moody, tight end Cameron Latu, and trading up for Trey Lance in 2021 and J'Ayir Brown in '23.

Now, the 49ers have made the decision to trade one of these valuable third-round picks to the Commanders in exchange for Chase Young. What makes this move even more intriguing is the potential outcome. If Young performs exceptionally well, the 49ers have the option to either keep him or let him walk in free agency, which would result in a compensatory third-round pick in 2025. Essentially, they would have gained the services of Young for half a season and a potential Super Bowl run in exchange for a one-year delay in receiving a compensatory pick.

On the flip side, the 49ers are acquiring a player who has shown great promise but has also faced concerns about his health, particularly following a devastating knee injury two years ago. However, Young was named Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2020 and possesses immense physical talent as a pass rusher. Playing alongside his former college teammate Nick Bosa, as well as Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave, under the guidance of respected defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, should bring out the best in Young and make the 49ers' defensive front a nightmare for opposing teams.

The influence of new Commanders owner Josh Harris has also been evident in their approach to the trade deadline. From a long-term perspective, it made sense for the Commanders to try and acquire assets for Young and fellow edge-rusher Montez Sweat. However, the decision to offload both players is interesting considering the pressure on the football personnel to perform and keep their jobs. Harris, who also runs the Philadelphia 76ers with a strong analytics influence, seems to be focused on building assets through expiring contracts, as evidenced by the second- and third-round picks acquired for Sweat and Young, respectively. The Commanders also entertained offers for Jacoby Brissett, indicating their willingness to listen to trade offers for other players.

It is worth noting that Harris's new analytics chief, Eugene Shen, will join the Commanders next week. This hiring represents Harris's first major move on the football side since his approval as owner in the summer.

The Chicago Bears' decision to trade for Montez Sweat may appear peculiar at first glance, considering the likely high draft pick they will have to give up. However, from a football perspective, it makes sense. Sweat is only 27 years old, and the chances of finding a pass rusher of his caliber with a pick in the 30s or in free agency are slim. By acquiring Sweat, the Bears are addressing a future need while also getting immediate help for their defense. Trading for a player like Carolina's Brian Burns in the future would likely be more costly, especially if the Panthers decide to place the franchise tag on him.

The only concern with the Sweat trade is that he is not signed beyond this season. While the franchise tag is an option, it gives Sweat leverage similar to what Laremy Tunsil had in Houston and Jalen Ramsey had in Los Angeles. In those cases, the teams acquiring Tunsil and Ramsey had an extra year on the contract, providing them with more time and control. The pressure is now on Bears GM Ryan Poles to ensure that this trade works out, especially after a previous trade to acquire Chase Claypool did not pan out as expected.

The Buffalo Bills made a smart move by acquiring veteran cornerback Rasul Douglas to mitigate the loss of Tre'Davious White, who suffered a torn Achilles. Douglas, at just 28 years old, provides stability to a defense that has been plagued by injuries this season. While the price of a third-round pick and a fifth-round pick is significant, it essentially amounts to moving a single pick down by approximately 70 slots. Given the Bills' position as a competitive team, this trade is well worth it.

The Seattle Seahawks explored various options before ultimately deciding to trade for Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams. Williams brings a reliable and disruptive presence to their defensive front, and his ability to be a true three-down player sets him apart. With an already talented defense, Williams adds another dimension to the Seahawks' unit.

The Minnesota Vikings considered several options for a new quarterback before settling on Josh Dobbs. The price for Dobbs was right, as they only had to give up a conditional seventh-round pick while sending a sixth-rounder to the Arizona Cardinals. The Vikings have been in a rebuilding phase this year, making moves to clear cap space and acquire assets for the future. Trading for someone like Jacoby Brissett would not have made much sense given their long-term plans.

The New England Patriots chose to keep their young players on expiring contracts, such as Josh Uche, Kyle Dugger, and Mike Onwenu. While they did listen to offers, the team ultimately made the decision not to trade away valuable players for minimal draft capital. It is worth noting that no offers were made for Mac Jones or Ezekiel Elliott.

The lack of activity from teams like New England, Carolina, and Denver suggests a limited number of buyers in the market this year. The reasons behind this scarcity will be explored further, as there were opportunities for teams to make impactful trades. Ultimately, contenders seemed to lack the appetite to make significant moves at the deadline.

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