The 49ers were long rumored to be interested in acquiring former Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr., but the price wasn’t quite right when New York general manager Dave Gettleman sped up trade talks last week.
Beckham, of course, wound up going to the Cleveland Browns for the No. 17 pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, a third-round pick (No. 95 overall) and safety Jabrill Peppers, who was a first-round selection in 2017. The blockbuster deal was agreed upon March 12, the evening before the new league year officially opened.
Gettleman spoke publicly about the trade for the first time Monday on a conference call with New York reporters and confirmed San Francisco’s interest in the three-time Pro Bowl receiver. He said he had “numerous conversations” with 49ers general manager John Lynch. “Frankly, we couldn’t come to an agreement so that died on the vine,” Gettleman said, according to NJ.com.
San Francisco has a clear need at receiver after telling Pierre Garçon they weren’t picking up his option for this year. The 49ers met with a slew of receiver prospects at the recent scouting combine and last week signed journeyman Jordan Matthews to a one-year contract.
The 49ers, trying to get back to the postseason for the first time since 2013, have the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft and are widely expected to use it on a potential star defensive lineman such as Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, Kentucky’s Josh Allen or Alabama’s Quinnen Williams. They might also consider trading back to add to their six picks to address needs at receiver and in the secondary.
The Giants were reportedly interested in a deal including San Francisco’s second-overall selection, but the 49ers passed because they deemed the pick too valuable. Peter King of NBC Sports discussed the dynamics in his weekly column published Monday.
“The Niners have been sniffing around Beckham for months. But they’re just not a good match right now,” King wrote. “The Giants need high picks and/or productive players. The Niners wouldn’t have wanted to trade a high pick this year or next plus rising star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner … and the Giants might not have wanted to settle, say, for next year’s first-rounder and this year’s second-rounder (36th overall) plus a lesser player than Buckner (say safety Jaquiski Tartt). The Giants need help now. So Gettleman took the bird in the hand. He lanced the boil.”
Buckner is entering his fourth season and has quickly grown into San Francisco’s most consistent and effective defensive player. He logged 12 sacks in 2018 and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl as an injury replacement. He is slated to cost roughly $5.8 million against the salary cap and is eligible for a lucrative contract extension this offseason for the first time, though no agreement is imminent.
Tartt has missed 15 games over the past two seasons with forearm and shoulder injuries. He’s expected to compete with second-year pro Marcell Harris for the starting strong safety job during training camp. Tartt signed a two-year, $13 million extension last spring.
Beckham inked a five-year, $90 million extension with the Giants last summer and is expected to have cap hits of $17 million, $14.25 million, $15.75 million, $15 million and $15 million over the course of his deal, according to Overthecap.com.
Those numbers are reasonable for a receiver of Beckham’s caliber. He averaged 1,294 receiving yards in the four seasons in which he appeared in at least 12 games. He led the NFL as a rookie in averaging 109 yards per contest – and he’s scored 44 touchdowns since getting selected with the 12th pick in the 2014 draft.
So why trade an elite talent less than a year after giving him long-term contract extension?
“We didn’t sign him to trade him but obviously things changed,” said Gettleman, who was hired Dec. 2017. “Frankly, what changed is another team made an offer we couldn’t refuse. As it turned out, the fact he was signed for five more years made him very attractive and allowed us to get legitimate value.’’
The 49ers last week traded for Chiefs pass rusher Dee Ford and gave him a five-year, $87.5 million contract. They also signed Buccaneers free agent linebacker Kwon Alexander to a four-year, $54 million deal. San Francisco is estimated to have some $37 million in salary cap space, which trails only the Houston Texans ($47 million) and Indianapolis Colts ($77 million).
And while adding Beckham to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s group of weapons would have been enticing, the 49ers and Giants couldn’t align on a deal. It’s clear San Francisco is intent on trying to improve last season’s 28th-ranked scoring defense and hoping coach Kyle Shanahan can elevate the offense in other ways.