Many assumed that the reason the 49ers were out of the Julio Jones sweepstakes was because they simply didn’t have the assets to acquire the star wide receiver. It was reported that the Falcons were looking for a first-rounder, and San Francisco just traded three of those to acquire Trey Lance.
It was then a little surprising to find out that San Francisco didn’t even make an offer for Jones (according to Albert Breer the entire NFC West didn’t) despite the fact that the Tennessee Titans were able to acquire the seven-time Pro Bowler for a second and fourth round pick.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan was asked about this on Wednesday, and explained that while the 49ers have a future second and fourth round pick they could’ve offered, that draft capital is now more important to hold on to without first-round picks.
“Yeah, I mean, I think the simple, like you said, no one in the world doesn’t want a guy like that,” Shanahan said. “I mean everyone knows the player he is. But it’s not as simple as that. You’ve got to build a team and it’s not just year to year, you’ve got to build it for the future. And, you know, you just think about how hard it is going into drafts. You know, you never know what you’re going to be able to do in free agency, who you’re going to lose, who you’re going to be able to bring in. You’ve got lots of guys on one-year contracts, things like that.
“Everyone knows we don’t have a first-round pick, but what happens when you don’t have a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick and you lose the number of guys in free agency, which you never can for sure count on? And then you end up going into a draft and you’ve got to get six new spots, but all you have is a third and a fifth-round pick.
“It’s kind of tough to build your team that way and to consistently do it. But he’s a hell of a player and he’s going to definitely help Tennessee. And everyone knows how special he is, but it’s, you’ve got to think about the short-term and the long-term and that’s why those things are so risky for everybody.”
When examining the pros and cons of doing the deal, the cons list was clearly more compelling to Shanahan and John Lynch.
The pros: Acquiring one of the greatest receivers of all time for reasonable draft compensation in a receiving room that is threadbare and has only two receivers that can be counted upon… and given injuries, they can’t actually be counted upon. Richie James Jr. is the only other receiver who you can comfortably say is likely to make the team at this point. Jones would provide serious depth and a sense of ease against the possibilities of injuries.
The cons: The 49ers would be without their first- and second-round picks next year, and third- and fourth-round picks in 2023. They would have to maneuver cap space in order to both afford Jones’ contract and to sign their rookie class, meaning two of three moves would be likely: extending Laken Tomlinson to lower his current year cap hit, and restructuring Jimmie Ward and/or Arik Armstead’s contracts. There is also the obvious concern that Jones has been injured in each of the last two seasons and perhaps we’ve already seen the best of him.