Who said February is a boring month for sports? Yesterday the 49ers reportedly acquired the 34th overall pick from the Chiefs for Alex Smith, and by noon they were already rumored to be shopping it in hopes of landing Darrelle Revis.
Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports was the first to report the 49ers’ interest in Revis, and over the next couple hours it ballooned into an enormous speculatory mess over what the 49ers would be giving up for the shutdown corner. But by the time I woke up this morning, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen was negating the report, saying “the 49ers aren’t inclined to pursue Darrelle Revis at this time.”
Of course what Mortensen says means very little. The key words there are “inclined” and “at this time,” meaning at “a later time” they could be… declined towards signing him? You get what I’m saying. This is the season of conflicting sources and confusion for fans. Remember when the 49ers were suiting Jim Harbaugh and Jason LaCanfora tweeted Harbaugh would be the next coach of the Miami Dolphins? I’ve learned to take everything said pre-draft with a grain of salt, but in this case I hope Mortensen’s source is correct.
If the 49ers are willing to acquire Revis on a one-year rental, it would require surrendering one of their top-34 picks or possibly both to get him. That’s expensive, but many are pointing to the 49ers’ acquisition of Deion Sanders in 1994 (and the ensuing championship season) as reason enough to pull the trigger.
There are a few problems with the Sanders comparison, though:
— What is the status of Revis’ ACL? The injury can be a career-ender for many players, and when it’s not it can have a lasting effect on lateral movement which, as we know, is kind of important for a cornerback. The 49ers would run extensive tests on Revis to see how well he has recovered, but they may not be getting the same top corner the Jets had in 2010, let alone someone comparable to Sanders.
— The 49ers signed Sanders to a free agent contract in a cap-less season. The team was facing impending cap hell and felt the need to go for broke right then and there. San Francisco is not in the same situation now. With careful maneuvering they can keep their core and still remain competitive. They have to trade for Revis now (as opposed to signing free agent Sanders then) and fit him into their cap equation while sacrificing future talent by giving away draft picks.
— The asking price for Revis is considerable, especially when looking at what the 49ers could acquire in this year’s draft instead. It’s deep at nearly every position of need for the 49ers, so they would be losing serious potential in favor of landing him.
It would be an astronomical waste for the 49ers to trade one or both of their top-34 picks for Revis. San Francisco doesn’t have the cap luxury to sign the corner to a long term deal, especially one as lucrative as he’s expecting. The team has to plan their cap around a number of high priority in-house signings down the road (Mike Iupati, Anthony Davis, Aldon Smith, Michael Crabtree and Colin Kaepernick, to name a few). A multi-year contract is simply not in the cards for them, so in essence, the 49ers would be trading away at least one high-value draft pick in exchange for a one-year rental, with no guarantees it will result in a Super Bowl victory.
With an abundance of mid- to late-round picks, the 49ers could still come up with a deal sweet enough to swindle Revis from the Jets assuming their competition (Atlanta is in the mix) doesn’t top them. Sure, the risk would be lower, but his $6M cap hit would still make it difficult for the 49ers to extend players in the upcoming year.
Of course, drafting players is no more a guarantee of immediate success than trading for a player like Revis is (hello, A.J. Jenkins). But if you look at the 49ers first and second round selections Trent Baalke has made other than Jenkins — Aldon Smith, Colin Kaepernick, LaMichael James — picks in those rounds have proved quite valuable. I like the 49ers’ chances if they stand pat in a drafting sense. They can compete with what they have plus their draft bounty, rather than shooting for the moon with one year on Revis Island.