There was some lag between hearing the San Francisco 49ers traded Parys Haralson to the Saints and finding out what the 49ers got back. After that information (a 2014 seventh round pick, conditional on Haralson making the Saints’ 53-man roster) was made public, there was some question as to whether the 49ers should’ve gotten more or whether they should’ve dealt Haralson in the first place.

There’s problem with looking at Haralson simply as a cog who could help the 49ers win. Keeping a respected veteran against his wishes generally isn’t worth the cost (either emotionally or financially), and Haralson may not have been satisfied as a backup.

“He wanted an opportunity to start. He wanted an opportunity to play, and he felt like it was going to happen elsewhere,” said Donte Whitner.

Haralson’s desire to be more than a third or fourth option at his position makes sense. He’s 29, coming off a missed season and was forced to take a pay cut of more than 50% to stay with the 49ers. Haralson started 68 games from 2007-11, and two years ago he started all 16, with then-rookie Aldon Smith playing part-time as a situational pass rusher.

Parys Haralson SF 49ers preseasonHaralson came back this spring with Smith and Ahmad Brooks firmly entrenched at both starting spots. Haralson may have been the first guy up to replace either Smith or Brooks if an injury occurred, but we don’t even know that to be the case since Vic Fangio sounds pretty comfortable with Dan Skuta, Corey Lemonier and Cam Johnson.

“We picked up Dan in the offseason and he’s done a good job of picking up the defense. He’s a very similar player to Parys, so I think you’ll see a lot of similarities to those two guys when they play. Corey we drafted in the third round. He’s got good athletic ability. He’s got good speed. He’s been doing a nice job picking up the defense here as a transition, which is always hard for those guys to do. He was a defensive end in college and I think he’s done well, about as well as many guys that have been put in that position that I’ve seen,” Fangio said.

“Cam’s a whole lot better player this year then he was last year. He’s made tremendous strides, both physically and mentally and emotionally and he’s light-years ahead of where he was last year at this time. So, those three guys have done a good job there and we feel good with all three of them.”

49ers fans raised on the Eddie Debartolo teams of the 1980s and early-1990s might disagree with a player’s stance that playing time trumps his chances of earning a ring, but that’s a reality of the salary cap era. Haralson probably only had this year to prove he can start in the NFL — one more year to possibly get a chunk of guaranteed money in 2014. Haralson spent all of 2012 around the team, helping where he could — some of his guidance may have helped Smith evolve from being a pass rush specialist to an all-around linebacker who can also play the run and cover. Both he and the 49ers probably felt like he deserved a shot to play more than he would in San Francisco.

The rest of the NFL could probably figure out this was the case when Trent Baalke started shopping Haralson, so one could argue the 49ers were lucky to get a conditional seventh-rounder.

Jim Harbaugh declined to comment yesterday when asked whether Haralson requested a trade, and overall it sounded as if there were no hard feelings in the 49ers’ locker room.

“We’re going to miss Parys here. I want to just laud his career here and his stay here. He was a great teammate, great friend of the organization and a really good player,” said Fangio. “We’re all happy for him that he’s going to be able to go somewhere else and get more playing time, but we are going to miss him.”

“Parys is one of the guys that everybody in the locker rom likes. So it’s tough, but we understand that side of the business,” Whitner said. “We wish him the best of luck. He’s now not one of us, but we wish him the best of luck individually.”