With the future of San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith currently up in the air following his arrest last week for making a bomb threat at the Los Angeles International Airport, there’s been a lot of speculation that the team might want to move up in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft next month to select UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr. So, would the Pittsburgh Steelers be a potential trading partner for the 49ers?
For starters, the 49ers currently pick 30th in the first round, so we are talking about a 15 spot jump and this assumes Barr is still on the board come time for the Steelers to make the 15th overall pick. When you look at the traditional trade value chart, that’s a difference of 430 points between the Steelers and the 49rs first round picks.
The 49ers, however, have two second round picks, 56th and 61st overall, so they presumably have good ammunition to trade up that far when you also consider that they have three third-round picks.
The 49ers 30th and 56th overall picks have a combined point total of 960, but that’s still 90 points short of the 1,050 point value that the Steelers 15th overall pick has. However, the 49ers are reportedly willing to trade running back LaMichael James, so that might be something that interest the Steelers, being as they could use a change of pace back to compliment Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount.
James, who was originally drafted by the 49ers in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft out of Oregon, has only carried the football 39 times for 184 yards during his first two regular seasons in the league. He’s familiar with the outside zone and is blazing fast. While he is undersized at 5’8″, he is a willing pass protector, who caught 51 passes for 586 yards while in college. In other words, he’s a slightly bigger version of LaRod Stephens-Howling and he’s not coming off of a serious knee injury. The Steelers should know a little bit about James already as they brought him in for a pre draft visit back in 2012.
As far as being able to afford James’ salary on draft day, that shouldn’t be an issue for the Steelers, based on where they currently stand salary cap wise.
James is scheduled to earn a base salary of $641,718 in 2014 along with a $50,000 workout bonus. Assuming the Steelers would be on the hook for both amounts, they would only need $196,718 in cap space after top 51 displacement if they traded for James. Currently, the NFLPA has the Steelers with $311,934 in available cap space after signing punter Adam Podlesh, so on paper, they should be able to do the deal.
By trading for James, the Steelers also wouldn’t have to spend one of their later-round draft picks on a running back, so that needs to be considered in all of this as well. Would you rather have James, a former second-round pick, or would you want to spend a fifth or sixth-round pick on a running back with no guarantee he makes the roster?
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert has talked quite a bit this offseason about how deep this year’s draft class is and we all know that this team could use as many early round picks as possible. At 30th overall, there would still be plenty of players left on the board that would fill an immediate need and the same goes for the 56th overall pick they’d presumably get from the 49ers.
I really hate speculating about draft trades, but I must admit that the scenario I laid out above sure would be enticing. What say you? Would you do this deal if you had the chance? If not, what would you want from the 49ers in return?