The NFL trade deadline came and went without the San Francisco 49ers entering the fray.
Coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch made no moves ahead of the 1 p.m. deadline Tuesday, nearly a year after changing the course of the franchise by acquiring quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots and trading disgruntled cornerback Rashard Robinson to the New York Jets for a fifth-round draft choice.
The 49ers reportedly had discussions with teams about trading veteran receiver Pierre Garçon and defensive back Jimmie Ward.
Shanahan said minutes before the deadline he was expecting to have Garçon for the remaining eight games this season.
“I’m excited about that. Pierre’s excited about that,” Shanahan said. “He still is limited today (with knee and shoulder injuries), but I think he’ll be good to go. I’ll be surprised if he can’t make it on Thursday.”
San Francisco’s short week ahead of Thursday’s game against the Oakland Raiders might have complicated where they stood in the trade market. Garçon didn’t play in Sunday’s loss to the Arizona Cardinals, and teams might have been leery about trading for an injured player.
Golden Tate and Demaryius Thomas were the top receivers traded. Tate went from the Detroit Lions to the defending-champion Philadelphia Eagles for a third-round pick. Thomas was sent from the Broncos to the Texans for a fourth-round choice, and the teams exchanged seventh-rounders. Houston plays at Denver on Sunday.
Garçon, 32, will stay with San Francisco as he looks to improve. His three catches and 32.9 yards per game are the worst averages since his rookie season in 2008. His 21 catches rank 96th in the NFL, while his 230 yards rank 105th.
Garçon got off to a promising start in his first campaign with San Francisco in 2017 when he logged 40 catches for 500 yards in eight contests before sustaining a non-displaced fracture in his neck. He was on pace for his third 1,000-yard season but missed the final eight games and didn’t get to play with Garoppolo.
Injuries in the secondary might have forced the 49ers to keep Ward. He made his first start of the season at free safety Sunday after playing previously at cornerback. He was moved to replace injured starter Adrian Colbert, who suffered a season-ending right high ankle sprain against the Rams on Oct. 21. Rookie D.J. Reed is the only other option at free safety still on the roster.
“Jimmie did a really nice job, a really, really nice job,” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “He made a couple of plays. There was one that we were talking through that he would like back, but other than that, I thought he did a great job communicating. He looked very comfortable back there and he looked good.”
It was unlikely the 49ers were going to add any difference-makers for the remainder of the season. At 1-7, they share the NFL’s worst record with the New York Giants and remain in rebuilding mode.
They’re slated to have five picks in the 2019 draft after trading away their fifth-round choice to the Lions for guard Laken Tomlinson in 2017, and their seventh-round selection to the Browns during final cuts for reserve offensive lineman Shon Coleman.
The 49ers have emphasized culture since the new regime took over, which means weighing the impact of roster decisions on the locker room. Trading the wrong players could lead to dysfunction and loss of respect. But there’s a balance Shanahan tries to strike knowing he has to work in the team’s best interest for the long haul.
“I think I have my finger on the pulse of that stuff a lot. I think about it a lot. I think I can put myself in other people’s shoes pretty well. I do worry about that stuff a lot,” he said. “But, no matter how soft you can get in that type of area, and you can relate and understand, you’ve always got to go to block that out and what helps our organization. What helps us now, what helps us in the future. You can communicate with everyone and you’d love to explain yourself to people. You always know people won’t always understand. Myself, John, our number one responsibility is to this organization.”
The 49ers after the trade deadline last season found two useful players on the waiver wire: pass rusher Cassius Marsh (15 tackles, one sack, not including his forced safety in Arizona) and defensive tackle Sheldon Day, who has already matched his career high with two sacks this season.