San Francisco 49ers superstar wide receiver Deebo Samuel isn't happy, and has reportedly asked to be traded.
This has to be a stunning development for the Niners, seemingly coming out of nowhere. Rumors abound as possible reasons for Samuel's displeasure, ranging from his usage within the offense, to not being satisfied with his salary after outperforming his rookie contract coming off an All-Pro season.
I can't help but be reminded of when a Steelers disgruntled All-Pro wide receiver forced his way out of the Steel City. I have no reason to believe Deebo Samuel would resort to the same antics as Antonio Brown to facilitate a trade, but these situations have a tendency to get messy.
So, the ball is squarely in the 49ers’ court. It remains to be seen just how the Niners will respond, but dramatic holdouts can be a huge distraction for a legitimate NFC championship contender.
Nobody knows how this situation will play out, but for this article we will presume a trade is inevitable.
What would be the pros and cons of the Steelers trading for Deebo Samuel, one of the most uniquely versatile receivers the NFL has ever seen?
First up, let's take a look at the pros.
There really isn't an accurate comparison to Deebo Samuel in league history. He is a 6' 220lb. bowling ball of a wide receiver. He has good speed, excellent acceleration, and solid hands. However, those abilities are only a small part of what makes him a truly special player.
Samuel created a new moniker for his enormous contributions on the field. He labeled himself a "wide back" at the 2022 Pro Bowl, meaning a wide receiver capable of playing like a running back. Not just any old running back, but a Pro Bowl caliber runner.
Samuel is the best yards after the catch receiver in the NFL. He has been blessed with a compact, stocky frame; which allows him to be a powerful runner after the catch with his low center of gravity. He set the NFL record for a wide receiver with his 8 total rushing touchdowns during his breakout 2021 season.
The Steelers need a slot receiver, a big play threat on the outside, and a quality running back to spell Najee Harris on occasion. Samuel can do all of the above, and more.
For example, Samuel averaged 6.2 yards a carry last season, on top of his aforementioned record setting rushing touchdowns. He finished with over 1400 receiving yards in 2021, to go along with a 18.2 yard average, and another 6 touchdown receptions. He even threw a touchdown pass last season.
Samuel would be an instant superstar in Pittsburgh, beloved for his physicality and passionate playing style. He would evoke memories of Steelers legend Hines Ward. His incredible versatility would be a perfect fit for Matt Canada's offense. The possibilities would be endless.
The Steelers could offer Diontae Johnson straight up in a trade, but I doubt that would be enough to get the job done. This year's first round pick might be enough; and the Steelers would be getting a proven difference maker, one of the best in the league, instead of the uncertainty associated with any draft pick.
Now let's look at the cons.
Samuel isn't going to be cheap. Thanks in large part to the Jacksonville Jaguars overpaying two mediocre wide receivers in the early stages of free agency, the fair market value for receiver has been reset to a ridiculous level. Players like Samuel, a former second round selection who has outplayed his rookie contract by a wide margin, have seen the numbers and are ready to get paid.
Players of Samuel's caliber are always going to get paid. Better to pay top dollar for an elite player at their position, than pay slightly less to a player that is nowhere near being on the same level. Especially to a player with the versatility to impact your offense at multiple positions of great need. Maybe even throw another touchdown pass. He provides a lot of bang for your buck.
I fully admit that I am not a fan of the whole holdout tactics being utilized more and more around the NFL. T.J. Watt set a strong example of how to handle a similar scenario prior to signing his record deal before the start of last season. It is a business after all, but Watt and the Rooneys conducted their business professionally, avoiding unnecessary drama.
My biggest concern is the unconfirmed rumor that Samuel doesn't like how he has been utilized in the Forty Niners offense. His superior abilities as both a wide receiver and running back are what sets him apart from his contemporaries, making him unique and elite.
Any team that could potentially acquire Samuel will definitely want to fully capitalize on his enormous skill set. Hopefully Samuel's issue with his usage isn't about the range of his responsibilities, but more about him feeling his voice is not being heard when it comes to how he is being used.
Just because Samuel is capable of rushing like an elite back, doesn't mean that is the best way to utilize him each week. He may feel that his risk of injury increases with each additional tote of the football. Therefore, he may want to primarily be considered a wide receiver, a position that definitely comes with a longer shelf life.
Deebo Samuel is an All Pro receiver, and I believe he could potentially become a legend in Pittsburgh. It appears that there are going to be plenty of expensive wide receivers around the NFL moving forward.
I believe that Deebo Samuel will prove to be one of the few actually worth every penny.