AFC East rivals could battle to acquire Deebo Samuel from 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers could be trading Deebo Samuel to the opposite coast.
Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages

The San Francisco 49ers are engaged in trade talks centered on both Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, per The Athletic's Dianna Russini. It feels like an either-or situation, with the Niners destined to begin training camp with one star WR left standing.

Aiyuk has been at the heart of NFL rumors for weeks now. He's entering the final year of his contract without an extension and he has made his displeasure more or less public, even if he's not to the point of demanding a trade.

And yet, according to the latest intel from Mike Giardi of the Boston Sports Journal, it's Samuel who is "more likely" to be moved. He cites two potential landing spots with high second-round picks, both situated in the American northeast.

It's not terribly hard to guess which northeastern teams might be inclined to pursue a Pro Bowl WR. The New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills are both in on Deebo.

Patriots, Bills interested in trading for 49ers WR Deebo Samuel

On the surface, one might be perplexed at Samuel's availability. He's under contract through 2025 and, aside from Christian McCaffrey and Brock Purdy, he is the most important playmaker in the Niners' offense. Aiyuk is great, and he's more than capable of holding down WR1 duties, but Samuel is a bonafide All-Pro wideout with a chameleonic skill set that is perfectly suited to Kyle Shanahan's offense.

And yet, a slight dig below the surface reveals the plain and simple logic from San Francisco here. Samuel's contract has an out after the season and his cap hit for next season — $24.2 million — ain't cheap. He's also two years older than Aiyuk, whose inevitable long-term extension might age better.

That's not to say the Niners should want to move off Samuel, without whom the San Francisco offense is noticeably less potent. Samuel has mastered a diverse and expansive route tree. He can create big plays down the field, execute on intermediate routes, or slip through the cracks on screen passes and leg out chunk gains. The Niners line up Samuel all over the formation and first-round pick Ricky Pearsall won't come close to replicating his production, especially early on.

For Buffalo and New England, however, this is a golden opportunity.

The Bills are home to maybe the league's worst WR room following the Stefon Diggs trade. Samuel isn't just a replacement — he could very well be an upgrade. Josh Allen deserves a real weapon to throw to, and Buffalo shouldn't concede ground in the AFC title race after last season's disappointing finish.

If Buffalo has the worst WR room, New England isn't far behind. That's a problem when introducing a rookie QB to the fold. It's unclear whether or not Drake Maye will get the QB1 nod over Jacoby Brissett to start the season, but it's only a matter of time. If the Patriots want to put Maye in a position to succeed, he needs a bankable sidekick. Samuel is one of the most reliable, high-volume wideouts in the NFL. He would help Maye a ton, which is enough to justify the trade and the financial investment, even if the Patriots don't win a ton of games straight away.

As day two of the NFL Draft approaches, keep your eyes on San Francisco and Deebo Samuel. Where there's smoke...

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