SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch was in no hurry to field questions about receiver Deebo Samuel in his pre-draft media availability Monday.
Before opening the nearly 30-minute session to queries, Lynch spent about 5½ of those minutes thanking his staff for its hard work on the upcoming NFL draft and discussing the draft itself. Mixed in was a brief mention of Samuel, but only to say that he didn’t intend to divulge details on the situation.
Eventually, the inquiries came in bunches, and while Lynch didn’t reveal why Samuel has requested a trade, any details on negotiations or how things reached this point, he did make it clear the Niners have little desire to trade the star receiver/running back.
“I can’t ever imagine wanting to move on from Deebo,” Lynch said. “You put yourself through the exercises of, even though we don’t have a first-round pick, you have to be thorough in this process and prepare for everything. So, you go through it and do that. He’s just too good of a player … We’ve got nothing but love for him and nothing but appreciation for what he’s brought, but you just don’t let guys like that walk. So, I can’t envision a scenario where we would [trade him].”
Samuel told ESPN’s Jeff Darlington last week that he has requested a trade, and subsequent reports noted that Samuel has refused to engage the Niners on a potential contract extension. Samuel is entering the final year of his rookie contract, a deal that comes with a cap number of just under $5 million for 2022.
Lynch acknowledged the reports that Samuel has requested a trade but declined to add much else, noting it’s “not productive” to discuss particulars of contract negotiations. Lynch did, however, say that the team and Samuel have been in contact over the past few weeks and that the Samuel situation has not changed the team’s approach to the NFL draft.
The 49ers don’t hold a pick in the first round, and Lynch said he expects Thursday night to be “a little boring” because of that.
Of course, that doesn’t mean speculation on a potential Samuel trade will slow down in the run-up to that first round. Asked whether a significant offer could change the Niners’ mind on dealing Samuel, Lynch left the door cracked open slightly.
“We’ve been consistent since we’ve been here that we’d listen on just about anyone,” Lynch said. “That’s something we’ll always do. But I can’t ever imagine moving on from Deebo. He’s been such a great player for us. He means so much to this franchise.”
Samuel is coming off a dynamic, unique season in which he posted 77 receptions for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns to go with 365 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the ground as he coined the term “wide back” for his ability to shift between receiver and traditional running back.
Some reports have indicated that Samuel was not happy with that usage because of the additional toll it takes on his body. During the season and after it, Samuel offered no such concerns, and the sides seemed to be headed toward a long-term agreement this offseason before Samuel’s trade request.
Which is why it has been a bit confounding to see that Samuel is now interested in leaving San Francisco.
“But that’s life,” Lynch said. “You’ve got to work through things and so that’s what we intend on doing.”
In the meantime, the 49ers began their offseason workout program last week without Samuel. According to players in the building, Samuel’s situation hasn’t been much of a topic of discussion.
“Deebo’s business is his business,” offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “It’s never something that players get into talking about other than congratulations after contract negotiations happen … But it’s not a secret what Deebo means to our football team. He’s one of our best players, if not our best player, and he deserves everything that’s coming his way, but obviously it’s between those guys and for them to figure it out.”
Linebacker Fred Warner, who was in a similar situation as Samuel last year, eventually became the highest-paid (at the time of signing) off-ball linebacker in league history just before training camp opened in July. Warner said that required plenty of patience, but it eventually worked out.
“We all care about Deebo,” Warner said. “We all understand when it’s that part of the process, that player has to kind of go through it. People who have gone through it are here to help him if he has questions or anything, but he’s a grown man. He’s got to go through that process and we’ve all got to respect that. That’s the business side of the game … that’s just kind of what his process is right now.”
Another player going through that process is defensive end Nick Bosa, who is also eligible for a contract extension for the first time. On Monday, the Niners exercised the fifth-year option on Bosa, who is not attending the early, voluntary portion of the offseason program, although not for contractual reasons.
Lynch again affirmed that, as with Samuel, a deal for Bosa is a priority and will come “at the appropriate time.”
Elsewhere, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is still working his way back from right shoulder surgery and rehabbing in Los Angeles as the Niners await a trade development.
“We’ve been in contact with his representation and in communication with him,” Lynch said. “I think the progress is good, so he’s tracking kind of right where we said and throwing toward the end of June and then ramping it up from there. That’s where that’s at.”
Alex Mack, the team’s 36-year-old center who just finished his 13th NFL season, has not yet decided whether he will return to the team or retire. Lynch indicated Mack will reveal that choice when he makes it.
“We’ve been in discussions with Alex, communicating with him,” Lynch said. “I would say I’m not going to speak for Alex on that. I think at the appropriate time Alex will comment on that.”
The 49ers have nine picks in the NFL draft with three on Day 2. An early choice at center is likely regardless of Mack’s decision but could also be an indicator of where that situation is headed.