In NFL circles, this spring will be remembered as The Offseason of the Receiver.
With wideouts landing fat new contracts, driving blockbuster deals and basically commanding the football world’s attention in seemingly every news cycle, it’s been quite a couple of months for the pigskin-snaggers.
The latest development comes via San Francisco 49ers playmaker Deebo Samuel, who has requested a trade.
Ohhhhh, Billy — what a juicy offseason story this is! A top-tier talent, squarely in his prime, reportedly wanting out due to discomfort with his unique usage … fresh off a season where his unique usage helped him soar into star status. Drama, indeed.
Sure, the 49ers could smooth things over and hang on to the receiver by paying him big bucks to continue being the most versatile weapon in the NFL. But where is the fun in that forecast?
Instead, let’s presume Samuel sticks to his trade demand, and the Niners — believing the wideout is a product of Kyle Shanahan’s scheme — are prepared to acquiesce. Where will Deebo land? Frankly, all 31 other teams should be making a call — even if NFC West foes would get a swift “ignore” from Niners GM John Lynch.
So, let’s take a gander at 10 locations that could be ideal landing spots for Samuel. The teams are presented in descending order, beginning with the potential marriages I like most.
Will Gang Green finally land a star receiver? New York has been linked to big-name targets all offseason, from Davante Adams to Tyreek Hill to A.J. Brown to seemingly every free agent. Yet the Jets have swung and missed. So far. Snagging Deebo would be the perfect prize for an impatient fan base. He’d fit seamlessly into the offense of former 49ers assistant Mike LaFleur, providing Zach Wilson a go-to target who can gobble up YAC. Samuel would also work well alongside second-year receiver Elijah Moore and slide Corey Davis into a No. 2/3 deep-threat role where he’s a better fit. The Jets have draft capital and cap space to sign Deebo to a monster deal. They also have a need at the position, a coaching staff that’s quite familiar with the wideout and a fan base clamoring for a big move. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that shipping Samuel to the AFC could be among San Francisco’s goals in any trade. A trade to New York almost makes too much sense to not happen, right? Right? RIGHT???? (Which means it’s definitely not happening.)
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Owner Jim Irsay promised big changes this offseason, and he’s delivered everywhere but in the receiver room. The Colts need to find Michael Pittman Jr. a running mate. Deebo would immediately give Indy a dynamic 1-2 punch. Samuel would fit well in Frank Reich’s offense and provide Matt Ryan a quick target over the middle. With an aging QB like Ryan, adding a receiver who can rack up yards and first downs after the catch would be a big boon. Indy lacks a first-round pick this season, but might the Niners accept future assets? We know the sides have worked together on significant deals in the past (SEE: DeForest Buckner). The Colts have finally started to use their hordes of salary cap space this offseason. Chris Ballard can continue that trend by acquiring and paying Samuel.
After trading Davante Adams, turning around and acquiring Samuel would alleviate serious concerns about the receiver room in Green Bay. The Packers have the draft ammo to offer the Niners a package of picks and remain all in with Aaron Rodgers steering the ship. Would Deebo be willing to accept the contract Adams reportedly eschewed? Samuel would fit perfectly in the Matt LaFleur offense and give Rodgers a go-to target who can win off the line of scrimmage. But would the Niners want to trade a dynamic player to one of their chief rivals in the NFC?
The thought of Samuel in Andy Reid’s offense has to make tape-heads drool. The Chiefs have spent the offseason noticeably trying to add weapons who can win over the middle and bust the two-high schemes defenses have used to stymie Kansas City’s offense. No one works the middle and maximizes YAC better than Deebo. He’d be a menace with Patrick Mahomes’ quick-strike arm. K.C. didn’t want to make Tyreek Hill the highest-paid receiver in the NFL, but they were willing to pay him more than $20 million a year. Would that be enough to make Deebo happy? Maybe the Niners could get back their original first-round pick in the deal (No. 29 overall, which K.C. received in the Hill trade with Miami).
Atlanta has the worst receiving corps in the NFL right now. Adding Deebo would immediately provide the Falcons a go-to target alongside tight end Kyle Pitts and dual-threat playmaker Cordarrelle Patterson. In addition to filling an obvious need, this potential marriage allows me to envision another fun player in Arthur Smith’s offense. Samuel would fit seamlessly into the scheme, and Smith has proven he knows how to maximize unique skill sets. Pairing Deebo and C-Patt would be a headache for defenses. And if Samuel wants to be used less as an RB, then Atlanta would be a good destination — they have Patterson for the bulk of those situations. The downside is that Atlanta would have to figure out how to make it work under the cap while they eat $40 million in dead money from the Matt Ryan trade.
What’s a “receiver landing spots” list without New England? For years, every available wideout has been connected to the Patriots in one form or another. Why stop now? Bill Belichick opened the purse strings last offseason, and while he rarely shells out for offensive weapons, perhaps snagging Samuel is the delayed cherry on top of the initial spending spree. The wideout would immediately give Mac Jones a true WR1 who wins regularly and fits the versatility Belichick desires in his players.
Never count out Howie Roseman. Never. The wheeling-and-dealing GM hasn’t met a trade he hasn’t considered. Even after dealing one first-round pick earlier this month, the Eagles have draft capital to spare — two first-rounders and five picks in the top 101. Samuel and DeVonta Smith would be a dynamic 1-2 punch, providing Jalen Hurts with a duo that can shine in the RPO game. The presence of Deebo would also add another element to the ground-first approach Philly intends to deploy. While the Eagles aren’t flush with cap space, they have enough to pay Samuel without jeopardizing their future. Instead of taking a swing at another young wideout with a high draft pick, Roseman could buy an already-proven commodity to upgrade the offense around Hurts — or whoever will be the QB down the road.
At the dawn of the post-Ben Roethlisberger era, what better way to bolster Mitchell Trubisky (or a rookie QB) than by adding a receiver who can get hidden yardage after the catch. Pittsburgh doesn’t traditionally make splashes on offense, but as we get into a new era of Steelers football, snagging Deebo would immediately keep Mike Tomlin’s club a contender. Samuel and Diontae Johnson would be a dangerous duo for any defense, simultaneously buffering the next full-time signal-caller.
If the Saints aren’t planning on packaging their two first-round picks to move up for a QB, perhaps they’ll consider spending one on Deebo? A team that has eschewed stockpiling top-tier receiver talent alongside Michael Thomas for years could shift gears in one fell swoop in the post-Sean Payton era. Samuel and a healthy Thomas would eat defenses alive off the line of scrimmage and give Jameis Winston targets in the quick passing attack. An offense with Deebo, MT and Alvin Kamara would be a migraine headache for defenses.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport tossed this one out there. Detroit certainly needs an alpha veteran receiver. Samuel’s work ethic fits with Dan Campbell’s modus operandi. And Samuel would give the future franchise quarterback a go-to target whenever the Lions move on from Jared Goff. Detroit has the draft capital (in the 32nd and 34th overall picks) and money to pay Samuel. But color me skeptical. To this point, Lions GM Brad Holmes has been shrewd in his rebuild, favoring short deals with upside that don’t commit long-term money. With considerable work to do across the roster, would Holmes toss that approach out the window to acquire Deebo? A trade wouldn’t be cheap in draft assets and future cap space. The Lions also already have Amon-Ra St. Brown, who might not be as dynamic as Deebo at this point, but plays similarly. Would paying Deebo more than $20 million per year at this stage of a rebuild make sense? There is no question the Lions could use talent in the WR room, so it wouldn’t be a stunner. But a Lions trade for Samuel would suggest that Holmes’ rebuild timeline is ahead of schedule.
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