Even though the San Francisco 49ers won the NFC and came just short of winning the Super Bowl, they are far from perfect. And they need to upgrade this offseason.
In the playoffs, San Francisco’s secondary was burned by Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan, their secondary wide receivers didn’t perform and the defensive tackles had some trouble, especially with Justin Smith not being at 100 percent.
While the free-agent class is decent, the 49ers cannot count on signing a top free-agent or finding a star with the 31st pick in the draft. So, trading is a way to address some needs. There are some good players that could get traded, and the 49ers have some needs to address.
Here are three potential trade targets for the 49ers:
Percy Harvin, WR
49ers fans know Percy Harvin well from the clash between the Minnesota Vikings and the 49ers in Week 3, in which Harvin torched the 49ers defense for nine catches and 89 receiving yards in a 24-13 Vikings win.
In just nine games in 2012, Harvin caught 62 passes for 677 yards and three touchdowns. While he missed eight games (including a Wild Card playoff game), Harvin still put up good numbers and helped the Vikings. However, his attitude has been a problem, and he doesn’t like the way Minnesota’s offense is being run, according to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com.
Harvin wants to be traded, and being on a perennial contender like San Francisco can pay dividends for him. San Francisco needs a No. 2 receiver, as Randy Moss is a free-agent who isn’t getting any younger. Harvin is 24 years old.
While some may say that he could ruin the locker room chemistry, it’s also worth noting that Jim Harbaugh runs a tight ship and will punish Harvin for bad actions. It could be a career-changing experience to play under Harbaugh in San Francisco, and it would pay off for both Harvin and the 49ers.
The 49ers could target Dwayne Bowe, Mike Wallace or another receiver, and I think they have a very good chance at landing one of those two. However, if the 49ers want to focus on another position in free agency or if they fail to sign a receiver, they could target Harvin.
Secondaries would be terrified by Harvin and Crabtree, both athletic, speedy targets, lining up on opposite sides of the field for the same team. Colin Kaepernick would become better, and the focus on Crabtree and Harvin would allow Vernon Davis to make plays as well.
Harvin would also likely step in as a kick returner, since LaMichael James wasn’t amazing and Ted Ginn Jr. probably will not return to the 49ers. That will add explosiveness to the special teams as well, and will make the 49ers offense better all-around.
In addition, it could lead to the 49ers finally getting over the hump. Imagine if someone else had gotten open on San Francisco’s final series in the Super Bowl. Imagine if Percy Harvin was open and caught the go-ahead touchdown pass.
It may be hard to imagine. But you could see it live next year if the 49ers pull the trigger on this deal.
Kevin Williams, DT
I am aware that Kevin Williams is also a member of the Minnesota Vikings. However, I am also aware that Williams could help the 49ers.
Justin Smith is an elite defensive tackle, but when he was hurt, the 49ers, Aldon Smith in particular, struggled mightily. Justin is known for bull-rushing and taking up multiple defenders to free up other rushers, Aldon Smith in particular.
However, the 49ers blew a 28-point lead to New England and lost by 29 to Seattle without Justin Smith, and while they beat the Arizona Cardinals in Week 17, it is worth a mention that the Arizona went 1-11 in its last 12 games, and that the 49ers only won by 14 at home.
Ricky Jean-Francois is a capable backup, but he certainly will not be mistaken for a star. Isaac Sopoaga isn’t a star either, and like Jean-Francois, he is a free agent. I don’t see the 49ers bringing back both of these guys, and even if they do, an upgrade could help.
Kevin Williams would be an upgrade. He is 33 and isn’t as dominant as he used to be, but his playing style is similar to that of Justin Smith. According to Spotrac, the defensive tackle is not a free agent. According to Rotoworld, Williams would like to play two or three more years.
The 49ers would have Williams for two years at a manageable contract, which is worth $8.38 million annually over two years. Williams would be motivated to win a Super Bowl for the first time, as he would likely only have two years left in his career (when his contract expires).
If the 311-pound Williams can be effective, the 49ers can take up lots of rushers with two dominant defensive tackles, allowing Aldon Smith to pummel opposing quarterbacks. If Williams struggles, the 49ers will likely have Jean-Francois or Sopoaga, who started in 2012, just in case.
Do the 49ers feel a need to trade for a defensive tackle? Maybe. Would they improve from a trade for a defensive tackle? Yes.
Darrelle Revis, CB
Darrelle Revis is coming off of an ACL tear, but he is still probably the best defensive back in the NFL. And he is a guy the 49ers could use.
According to NFL.com, the 49ers are highly interested in Revis. While the 49er defense performed very well in 2012, there is good reason for the 49ers to have interest in the league’s best cornerback.
Tarell Brown performed very well in the playoffs, with one interception and another one negated due to a questionable penalty. However, Carlos Rogers failed to improve upon his 2011 Pro Bowl campaign, and Rogers was a liability for the 49ers.
And Chris Culliver? He struggled mightily in the playoffs, and while he had an interception, it was caused by Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White, who likely would have caught the pass, slipping. In the Super Bowl, Joe Flacco gashed Culliver on a couple of deep balls and other passes, one deep ball resulting in a touchdown.
I would hate to see Culliver as a regular in the secondary, and while Rogers is a capable starter, he isn’t a star. Rogers deflected just seven passes in 2012 while intercepting just one. Brown deflected 14, and Patrick Willis intercepted two. The middle linebacker, Patrick Willis, intercepted twice as many passes as Rogers.
Brown isn’t exactly a star either, so while the 49ers have a very good defense, they lack a star in the secondary. Darrelle Revis is a star, and he is exactly what the 49ers need to make their defense complete. Revis has defensed 98 passes and intercepted 19 in just 79 games, putting him up there with the best of the best. That’s an average of just under 20 passes defensed per year and just under four interceptions per year.
Brown led the 49ers with 14 passes defensed and Dashon Goldson led the 49ers with three interceptions. So, Revis would lead the team in both categories, and he would lead the team in impact as well. In 2011, Revis’ last full season, his numbers were astounding.
Opposing quarterbacks completed 41.2 percent of their passes against Revis, which is a lot lower than Tim Tebow’s completion percentage. They also posted a horrific 45.6 passer rating against him, both horrible numbers for quarterbacks and eye-popping stats for Revis.
The star cornerback is 27 years old and worth just $15 million over the next two years, which is incredible value for someone of Revis’ caliber. The 49ers would probably have Revis for a while, as Revis would love being on a great team. If Revis performs at the level he has been playing, he would be in line for a monster contract extension.
Having Brown and Revis as the starting cornerbacks would make the defense, which still allowed about 17 PPG (points per game) in 2012, a whole lot better. Matt Ryan threw for 396 yards in the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers, but with Revis, that wouldn’t happen.
And playoff failure wouldn’t happen either.
Note: Some stats are from Pro Football Focus.