Like 30 other teams, the 49ers did not acquire a player via trade before the NFL’s Tuesday’s deadline.
But – as has been pointed out in this space numerous times over the past several weeks – the 49ers’ roster will not remain static in the second half of the season.
The move the 49ers made on Tuesday did not involve Josh Gordon or Hakeem Nicks or Jared Allen. In fact, those players did not change teams.
After weeks of speculation about dozens of players, the only person who changed teams was not the subject of any trade reports. Ex-49ers nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga was sent from the Philadelphia Eagles to the New England Patriots, along with a sixth-round pick, in exchange for the a fifth-round selection.
The 49ers, meanwhile, bolstered their depth along the defensive with the addition of rookie defensive lineman Tank Carradine, a second-round draft pick who is returning off a knee injury that landed him on the non-football injury list for the first eight weeks of the regular season. The 49ers cut outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham to make room Carradine.
Within the next week, the 49ers plan to activate wide receiver Mario Manningham and cornerback Eric Wright, too.
The 49ers did not strike a deal with the Cleveland Browns for Josh Gordon, who might be one of the top handful of talents at his position in the NFL. The 49ers have 12 draft picks that could have been used in trades, including two apiece in the second and third rounds.
But they will add a No. 1 receiver in “some weeks,” according to coach Jim Harbaugh, when Michael Crabtree is cleared to return to the field.
“I’m not going to make any proclamations or profound statements,” Harbaugh said Tuesday in Santa Clara, “but he’s right on track for, at some point here, weeks.”
Gordon is a game-changing talent that the Browns were not going to just give away. It’s not even certain the Browns were willing to part ways with him.
The 49ers were not in a desperate situation to overpay the Browns for a wide receiver when they expect to finish the season – and head into the playoffs -- with Anquan Boldin, Crabtree and Manningham as the team’s top three wideouts.
“I think you have you have to look at that, and it plays a big role in what you can do and what you’re willing to do from a roster standpoint,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke told reporters last week in London, referring to the returns of Manningham and Crabtree.
“Those are two pretty good football players.”
Plus, Vernon Davis puts up wide receiver-like production in the passing game from tight end.
And let’s also remember, the 49ers are built around running the football. The 49ers feature one of the league’s best run-blocking offensive lines. Baalke referred to the 49ers as a “fullback-driven offense,” with Frank Gore most comfortable running power plays with Bruce Miller as a lead-blocker.
The 49ers are not equipped to change offensive philosophies in the middle of the season to feature multi-receiver sets.
This is not to say the 49ers did not want Gordon. The 49ers have a very high opinion of Gordon as a playmaker.
But it also did not make much sense for the Browns to discard a young ascending player with 2 ½ more years remaining on his contract. The only reason for Cleveland to look to unload Gordon would’ve been if they felt he was destined for more problems off the field.
He was suspended for two games and fined four paychecks at the beginning of this season for violating the league’s policy on substances of abuse. Another infraction could result in a yearlong suspension.
The possibility of a 49ers trade always seemed unlikely. The 49ers unquestionably would have wanted any trade to include conditions to protect themselves in case Gordon had another misstep off the field.
And that would have negated the reason for the Browns to send him away in the first place.