NFLTR Review: Potential Landing Spots For Deebo Samuel

Just when you thought this NFL offseason was out of plot twists, Deebo Samuel’s trade request shook things up again. In this issue: 

  • Will the 49ers actually trade their star WR?
  • Jets an obvious fit, who else? 
  • Projecting the 2019 class’ 5th-year options

Around The Trade Block: Deebo Samuel

The year of the wide receiver continued this past week, as 49ers WR Deebo Samuel made waves by requesting a trade out of San Francisco. One of the biggest breakout stars of the 2021 season following a year in which he had both over 1,400 yards receiving and rushed for eight touchdowns, Samuel is due for a new deal this offseason just as the market for his position has exploded. The absolute floor for a deal is probably $22 million a season and Samuel is rumored to be seeking as much as $25 million per year. 

Money might not be the issue, though it usually is at least part of it. Multiple reporters have said San Francisco is willing to write a huge check for Samuel but he hasn’t even been willing to start talks. Apparently, Samuel is not happy with his usage, presumably at running back. He didn’t say that to ESPN’s Jeff Darlington who broke the news about the trade, but NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport and Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer have said it’s an issue for him. 

Toughness and versatility are Samuel’s two biggest calling cards as an NFL player right now, but it was also apparent he was gritting through a number of injuries to stay on the field late in the season and the playoffs. Longevity must be on the mind for the 26-year-old Samuel. And for him to publicly air a trade request a week before the draft, his concerns must be serious. 

So what’s next? 

The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami, one of the most plugged-in reporters in the Bay Area, wrote a column about a week ago that looks downright prophetic right now. Among other things, he wrote: 

“Here’s my conclusion: If the 49ers aren’t prepared to eventually pay Deebo at or near the top of the WR market, I believe he’ll be traded before April 28, the first round of the draft, for a package that would include a first-round pick in this draft that the 49ers would immediately use on a WR.”

He added at the time he expected San Francisco to pay up but obviously things look a little more doubtful now. Since Samuel reportedly told the team he wanted out about a week ago, there has been little to no movement toward a trade. The reports from Wednesday all hit the same note too — the 49ers don’t want to trade Samuel. 

That’s easy to understand given there’s a strong argument to be made Samuel was their most important offensive player last season (the correct answer is LT Trent Williams). Trading away Trey Lance’s No. 1 receiver is also not the way to start the 2021 first-rounder’s career as the starter off on the right foot. 

Fortunately from the team perspective, they have a fair amount of leverage. The last CBA  neutered players’ ability to hold out while under contract. Samuel would owe millions in fines if he sat out training camp and would forfeit his $4 million salary for 2022 if he missed the season. Most importantly, however, he would lose a year of accrued experience if he doesn’t report for the first day of training camp, meaning he’d be a restricted free agent in 2023 and ineligible for unrestricted free agency. 

Samuel’s only leverage is withholding his services, and given his star power that does count for something. But that scenario is basically the nuclear option where no one really wins. Samuel loses a year of his prime and still has limited options to cash in. San Francisco doesn’t have a key player on offense and has no assets to replace him. 

As Kawakami pointed out, the 49ers faced a similar dilemma a few seasons ago with DT DeForest Buckner. They recognized early in the process they weren’t going to be willing to meet his asking price, so in March before the situation got ugly they traded him to the Colts for a first-round pick they then used on his replacement, Javon Kinlaw.

That gave them a lot more time to research draft prospects, though, and they already had one first-round pick. This year, San Francisco wasn’t slated to pick until the end of the second round and their prospect visit list reflected that. If they do trade Samuel for a first, they could be flying blind when it comes to the top receiver prospects. 

My tentative guess is that San Francisco will be motivated to patch things up and work things out with Samuel, even if it’s just for the 2022 season. But that’s not why you click around on a trade rumors website, and now that Samuel’s discontent is being broadcast on all frequencies, perhaps the 49ers will get a monster offer that convinces them to pull the trigger. There are a number of teams that should and will be interested, with some clear landing spots that make more sense than others…

The Contenders


Honestly, this fit makes too much sense to project. It’s almost too easy. The Jets have looked into trading or signing just about every big-name receiver who has been available this offseason, from Calvin Ridley to Tyreek Hill. They’ve struck out every time so far but are still looking to swing. 

They have two first-round picks, with the second at No. 10 overall a popular destination in mock drafts for one of the draft’s top receivers. They were only willing to put their two second-round picks on the table for Hill, but if the 49ers are looking to be blown away, the No. 10 pick could make San Francisco really think about doing the deal. Samuel’s a safer bet with the pick than a rookie and more ready to contribute right away.  

The fit is even cleaner because of how familiar much of the staff, including HC Robert Saleh and OC Mike LaFleur, are with Samuel from their time in San Francisco. The second Samuel is traded, he would know the bulk of the offense without studying a single minute. Cap space should be no object either. New York was willing to do a massive deal for Hill and Samuel is a couple of years younger. 

However, there are some obstacles here if you dig in further. Giving up the No. 10 pick and deal worth close to $25 million a year is a massive premium. It would truly test Jets GM Joe Douglas’ assertion that he’s ready to be aggressive. Samuel also has a lengthy injury history dating back to college that teams will be aware of. 

And that system fit with the former 49ers coaches might end up actually working against the Jets if Samuel really doesn’t want to play running back anymore. He’s a good receiver, but his toughness, versatility and YAC — yards after contact or yards after catch, both apply — are what make him special. He’s not Justin Jefferson or Davante Adams as a route runner. This is something any team that trades for Samuel will have to get a handle on. 

If I knew Samuel was going to be traded, I would bet the Jets as the prohibitive favorites given the familiarity and the resources. That No. 10 pick, if the Jets are really willing to give it up, is a heck of a trump card over any of the other teams we’ll discuss. 


The day before Samuel’s trade request, Kawakami also reported the Texans were looking to make a move to add a receiver and inferred they’d be interested in Samuel if he were available. Houston also has two first-round picks, with the second at No. 13 right in that potential sweet spot for when most people think some of the top receivers in this class will start coming off the board. It’s not as good as the 10th pick, which would matter a lot to the 49ers. But it’s also high enough to be intriguing. 

As for the Texans, they obviously need foundational pieces and could use more help around Davis Mills to evaluate him as the starter in his second season. And if Mills doesn’t work out, Samuel would be a draw for any other quarterback they might target in 2023. Houston has the cap space to do a deal for Samuel as well. 

However, why would Samuel want to go to Houston? There could be $100 million reasons why if they’re willing to give him the mega contract but the organization is widely seen as one of the worst in the league right now. Meanwhile, the 49ers were just in the NFC championship. Money tends to win out with these kinds of things but I think if Samuel has other options, he’ll break ties against the Texans. 


Green Bay obviously has a huge need at wide receiver given their top threat right now is either Allen Lazard or a 31-year-old Randall Cobb. The Packers have two first-round picks (No. 22 and No. 28) and two second-round picks that they can dangle to San Francisco. While there could be some hesitancy in trading picks for the right to give Samuel a market-setting deal when they just traded away Davante Adams, it sounds like the Packers were willing to give Adams that deal. He just was ready for something else. Samuel is also a fair amount younger than Adams. 

On paper, it’s another strong fit. The staff, helmed by HC Matt LaFleur, runs a similar offense to what the 49ers run as well. LaFleur is good friends with Shanahan and overlapped with him at a few jobs earlier in their careers. Add QB Aaron Rodgers on top of that and it’s a great situation for Samuel. Green Bay would love to add the player who played a huge role in knocking them out of the postseason this past year. 

That’s partially why there’s very, very, very little chance of this deal happening. Shanahan might even preemptively hang up on any Green Bay area codes for a week to be safe. If the 49ers decide to trade Samuel, it’ll have to be to an ideal situation. That probably means sending him to an AFC team. Even if the Packers were an AFC team, that No. 22 pick is a little low for San Francisco to be assured of getting a replacement for Samuel. 


Another contending team with a big need at wide receiver and a pair of first-round picks, the Chiefs are another potential landing spot. They signed a couple of wideouts but none have the star power Samuel does. Some teams might be worried about having an offensive coordinator who could maximize Samuel’s unique abilities. That wouldn’t be an issue in Kanas City with HC Andy Reid

However, there are a number of reasons why a trade between these two teams could be hard to swing. Both of Kansas City’s firsts are late in the round at No. 29 and No. 30. The top receivers will probably be long gone, so I think the Chiefs would have to offer both to seriously tempt San Francisco. I seriously doubt the Chiefs would be willing to do that, especially because it means also paying Samuel a contract they weren’t willing to give to Hill. 


I think the Eagles, despite being an NFC team, might make more sense than the Chiefs. They have two first-round picks at No. 15 and No. 18, either of which could fulfill the 49ers’ potential parameters. They obviously have a need at receiver and they have not given a second contract at the position yet. Eagles GM Howie Roseman is known to be one of the most aggressive traders in football. 

That said, it’s still a tough sell to ship Samuel off to another NFC team. This might also not be the kind of trade Roseman loves, as the Eagles are giving up the premium of a high pick and monster deal rather than receiving any surplus benefits. 

Dark Horses


The Lions are at the stage in their rebuild where they just need to add good players, and Samuel certainly qualifies. They have the cap space to take on a mega-deal and two first-round picks this year, although the second is the last pick of the round. While they’re rebuilding, HC Dan Campbell definitely has some fans in NFL circles and a reputation as a player’s coach. 

However, the low pick slot and the fact they’re an NFC team probably rule them out from the 49ers’ point of view. From Detroit’s perspective, it makes more sense they to bank their picks and continue building up the team while preserving flexibility to get a quarterback of the future. Adding Samuel is the type of move you make as a finishing touch to a rebuild, and the Lions seem like they’re at least a season away from that. 


Rounding out the teams with multiple first-round picks, New Orleans has the No. 16 pick after its trade with the Eagles and that’s right in the sweet spot for the 49ers to potentially find a replacement for Samuel. One of the biggest remaining needs on the roster for the Saints is at receiver and Samuel would team up with Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas to form a dream trio for an offensive coordinator. 

Unfortunately, it won’t be Sean Payton and Drew Brees maximizing Samuel’s impact. It’ll be Jameis Winston and Pete Carmichael, which at least for now look like a severe downgrade. The Saints tend to figure it out when it comes to finances but we’d be remiss not to mention their cap situation, especially because they already have Thomas on the books for big money and won’t be able to get out of that deal easily. And finally, any NFC team is going to have to work extra hard to get the 49ers to even consider them as an option. That could make an expensive deal even steeper for the Saints. 


Why not continue to load up on offense to take advantage of the flexibility afforded by star QB Justin Herbert’s rookie deal? Samuel would form probably the best receiving trio in football with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams and add a physical element to Los Angeles’ offense. They’re in the AFC and their first-round pick is at No. 17 overall, so they’d check a couple of boxes for San Francisco in a trade partner. 

However, the Chargers are already paying both Allen and Williams $20 million a year. Three highly-paid receivers, one of whom will also require a first-round pick and more to acquire, isn’t necessarily smart asset allocation. Would the Chargers dangle Allen as a replacement? That feels too spicy even for this offseason but that might be the only way a deal between these two teams makes sense. 


The Patriots are another AFC team with a young quarterback they’re looking to build around. Even after trading for DeVante Parker, the Patriots don’t have a player on offense who’s near the same caliber of a weapon that Samuel would be. 

However, it’s not New England’s style to buy high like this, sending a first-round pick for the right to give Samuel a market-rate or above deal. Their first-round pick is also a little low at No. 21 for the 49ers to be assured of finding a replacement for Samuel. The Patriots probably will kick the tires but I’d bet talks won’t last long. 

No Way


They have too many needs and not enough cap space. 


They just traded away Amari Cooper rather than pay him $20 million, they’re NFC rivals and their pick is too low in the round. 


They don’t have a first-round pick. 


Reuniting Samuel with HC Mike McDaniel would be hot but there’s no way after trading for Hill. 


They don’t have a first-round pick. 

This Week In Football

  • We’ve already gone into quite a bit of depth on the Samuel trade request. That was the big headliner in what was otherwise a relative snoozefest of a week compared to the rest of this offseason. One of the few other headline moves was the Browns reaching an agreement on a five-year, $100.5 million deal for CB Denzel Ward that just barely resets the market at the position. It’s a really strong deal for Ward as well with guarantees going three years into the deal. He’s a terrific young corner, but it’s notable that he was able to pass Rams CB Jalen Ramsey when others like Saints CB Marshon Lattimore, Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey, Bills CB Tre’Davious White and even Chargers CB J.C. Jackson all slotted in underneath him. Next up is Packers CB Jaire Alexander
  • We’re about a week away from the draft and that marks a potential action point for the Browns and QB Baker Mayfield. It still doesn’t feel like we’re any closer to knowing where he’ll be in 2022. The week started out with a couple of reports linking Mayfield to the Panthers, despite the two sides having “mutual disinterest” a month earlier. We went from that to now Carolina have the “inside track” and being the “most likely” destination. It’s not like either side has a ton of options, but still. Subsequent reports throughout the week downplayed Carolina’s interest and maintained Seattle is still in the running. A week ago, Mayfield said he thought the Seahawks were most likely. But he admitted he, like the rest of us, doesn’t really know. 
  • Cardinals GM Steve Keim met with reporters for his annual pre-draft press conference, but the biggest topic of discussion was QB Kyler Murray. Keim reiterated from the team’s perspective there is “zero chance” they trade Murray and said they plan to open extension talks this summer, which is customary for most teams. What was interesting to see is that after Keim’s presser, Murray took to Twitter and publicly committed to the team. Perhaps the two sides have turned a corner? 
  • Back during the hiring cycle when the Jaguars’ dysfunction was under more scrutiny than usual, the idea of hiring a senior front office executive over GM Trent Baalke to lessen his influence in the organization and make it more attractive to head coaching candidates was floated. Jacksonville later backed away from that specific idea but kept looking to add to its front office. The search seems to be over, as 49ers VP of player personnel Ethan Waugh will join the Jaguars as Baalke’s assistant GM after the draft. Waugh has been with the 49ers for 17 years, including the entirety of Baalke’s tenure in San Francisco. If anything, this is Baalke gaining more influence in the organization, not less. 
  • There might not be many more free agent signings until after the draft, but there were a handful of interesting visits that cropped up this week:
    • The Saints hosted WR Jarvis Landry for a visit. Landry of course went to LSU and the Saints have a big need for additional weapons. Landry also is interested in a return to the Browns on a lower rate than what he was scheduled to make when they cut him earlier this offseason.
    • Former Saints, 49ers and Bucs LB Kwon Alexander visited the Jets. He has a lot of familiarity with HC Robert Saleh, who was San Francisco’s defensive coordinator when Alexander signed as a big-ticket free agent. Injuries have derailed his career since then but he could still be a valuable second or third linebacker in New York.
    • The Seahawks hosted DB Damontae Kazee and DE Mario Addison for visits, two players I have enjoyed watching for a while as a Panthers fan. Addison is remarkably consistent, with at least five sacks every season since 2014. He’s got a lot of juice as a pass rusher still even though he’s 34. Kazee would always pop watching the Falcons. He can play both safety and nickel and is not afraid to come up and hit. 

Fifth-Year Option Projections

Shortly after the draft, teams will have to decide on the fifth-year options for the 2019 class of first-round picks. The options are for the 2023 season, meaning players who have them declined will be going into contract years this coming season. Starting last year, the options are also fully guaranteed upon being picked up, meaning teams can’t rescind them later if a player has a rough 2022 season. 

Our 2023 Fifth-Year Option Tracker has been live for a few weeks and there are already eight players whose situations are resolved. The Seahawks have officially picked up the option for TE Noah Fant, while Buccaneers LB Devin White, Lions TE T.J. Hockenson, Bills DT Ed Oliver, Panthers DE Brian Burns and Ravens WR Marquise Brown have gotten public pledges from their teams that the options will be picked up. Former Giants CB Deandre Baker and former Washington QB Dwayne Haskins were released before the conclusion of their rookie contracts. 

That leaves 24 to go. Here’s a look at where things stand with each as it relates to the fifth-year option. Contract values are from projections done by Over The Cap

Cardinals QB Kyler Murray

Cost: $29.7 million

Projection: Exercised

The contract dispute adds an interesting wrinkle here, but the option can be folded into whatever deal Murray signs, whether it’s with the Cardinals ro another team. This should still be a no-brainer. 

49ers DE Nick Bosa

Cost: $17.9 million

Projection: Exercised

This is an easy call as well. The 49ers will pick this up and add it into whatever extension the two sides work out this summer. 

Jets DT Quinnen Williams

Cost: $11.5 million

Projection: Exercised

The Jets have said they plan to exercise the option for Williams. There doesn’t seem to be as much motivation to lock him up long-term this offseason, which provides an opportunity for him to raise his value in 2022. 

Raiders DE Clelin Ferrell

Cost: $11.5 million

Projection: Declined

Ferrell gets a fresh start with a new staff but hasn’t proven himself worth that much in a year. 

Giants QB Daniel Jones

Cost: $22.8 million

Projection: Declined

The Giants won’t make the same mistake the Panthers did by locking themselves into a cumbersome salary if Jones fails to take a step forward. Over The Cap projects the franchise tag for quarterbacks to be $31.5 million in 2023. If Jones plays well enough to justify the tag next year, that’ll be well worth it, so no need to get cute to try and save $10 million at the risk of losing flexibility. 

Jaguars OLB Josh Allen

Cost: $11.5 million

Projection: Exercised

Allen has 20.5 sacks over the past three seasons, so $11.5 million is well worth keeping him in house to see if he can develop those flashes into a more consistent pass-rushing presence. 

Steelers LB Devin Bush

Cost: $10.9 million

Projection: Declined

Bush has had a rocky first three seasons. A torn ACL in 2020 hasn’t helped. He’s still a big part of the Steelers’ defense but he just hasn’t shown enough at this point to guarantee almost $11 million in 2023. 

Bengals OT Jonah Williams

Cost: $12.6 million

Projection: Exercised

Williams has been solid, but maybe not great. Either way, solid goes a long way for offensive linemen in the NFL. $12.6 million for “solid” is a bargain. 

Packers OLB Rashan Gary

Cost: $10.9 million

Projection: Exercised

Gary had a breakout 2021 season with 9.5 sacks and will remain a full-time starter with Za’Darius Smith gone. $10.9 million could be a steal if he continues his growth. He’s a strong candidate for a long-term deal in 2023. 

Dolphins DT Christian Wilkins

Cost: $10.7 million

Projection: Exercised

His bark was bigger than his bite his first two seasons, but Wilkins put it together for a strong year in 2021. Miami can make unexpected personnel moves at times but it would be a big surprise if they didn’t pick up the option for Wilkins. 

Falcons G Chris Lindstrom

Cost: $13.2 million

Projection: Exercised

One of the few young foundational players the Falcons have. Keeping him is an easy decision. 

Giants DT Dexter Lawrence

Cost: $10.7 million

Projection: Exercised

This one is a little murky. Lawrence is a holdover from previous GM Dave Gettleman. He’s been solid as a big body in the middle with more pass rush ability (nine sacks in three season) than you’d expect from someone who is 6-4 and 340+ pounds. A new GM and new coaching staff injects some uncertainty, however. 

Vikings C Garrett Bradbury

Cost: $13.2 million

Projection: Declined

The option for Bradbury would make him the No. 3 center in terms of pay. Pro Football Focus had him rated as the No. 29 center in 2021. You can do the math there. 

Titans DT Jeffery Simmons

Cost: $10.7 million

Projection: Exercised

Slam dunk, no-brainer. Might have been the best defensive tackle outside of Aaron Donald last season. 

Packers S Darnell Savage

Cost: $7.9 million

Projection: Exercised

There’s still another level for Savage to tap into, particularly given the Packers will have some hard extension decisions coming up in the next few seasons. But $7.9 million is eminently reasonable for 2023. 

Eagles OT Andre Dillard

Cost: $12.6 million

Projection: Declined

Dillard is a backup and a trade candidate this season. 

Texans OT Tytus Howard

Cost: $13.2 million

Projection: Declined

Houston has shuffled Howard around to a few different positions and hasn’t really seemed committed to him. If they draft a tackle at No. 3, that would be a sure sign Howard is on his way out. 

Raiders RB Josh Jacobs

Cost: $8 million

Projection: Exercised

New HC Josh McDaniels has been complimentary of Jacobs, who has more than 1,200 total yards in each of his first three seasons. Still, $8 million represents a sizable commitment to a running back, so this really could go either way. 

Commanders DE Montez Sweat

Cost: $10.9 million

Projection: Exercised

Sweat, like the rest of the Commanders team, didn’t live up to expectations in 2021. Still, he’s shown too much potential not to pick up the option, especially considering where the market for pass rushers has gone. 

Raiders S Johnathan Abram

Cost: $7.9 million

Projection: Declined

Abram can hit like a ton of bricks. It’s the rest of playing safety, as well as staying healthy, that has given him trouble his first three seasons. It would be a surprise if the Raiders guaranteed a fifth. 

Chargers DT Jerry Tillery

Cost: $11.5 million

Projection: Declined

Tillery hasn’t justified the price tag for the option so far. 

Seahawks DE L.J. Collier

Cost: $11.5 million

Projection: Declined

Collier’s name has come up in trade rumors a few times the past year or so. Given that, it’s doubtful Seattle exercises his option. 

Falcons RT Kaleb McGary

Cost: $13.2 million

Projection: Declined

McGary has struggled at times and the Falcons added some veteran competition for him in Germain Ifedi. My guess is Atlanta wants to see more, and will decline the option while leaving open the possibility of an extension for McGary if he puts it together in 2022. 

Patriots WR N’Keal Harry

Cost: $12.4 million

Projection: Declined

Harry could be either cut or traded before the season begins.

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