Does Minkah Fitzpatrick Make Sense For The 49ers?
As the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers were finishing up their Thursday Night Football contest, reports surfaced that yet another high-profile player could be had in a trade.
The free-falling Miami Dolphins have granted second-year defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick permission to seek a trade. This comes following 59-10 season-opening loss to the Baltimore Ravens. It also comes at a time when the Dolphins’ brass could have a mutiny on their hands.
Players don’t want to tank. That’s exactly what the Dolphins are doing. A week before the start of the regular season, they traded franchise left tackle Laremy Tunsil in a blockbuster deal. If that’s not an indication of tanking, we’re not sure what is.
This could potentially lead to Fitzpatrick being moved here in the not-so-distant future. If so, pretty much every team that doesn’t reside in South Beach would have interest in the talented defensive back.
We’re here to look at whether the San Francisco 49ers would make sense. Let’s check in on a few factors below.
The No. 11 overall pick in last year’s draft, Fitzpatrick entered the annual event as a potential top-five pick. He lasted to Miami based primarily on questions about where the former Alabama standout would play at the next level.
That’s been the overriding issue in Miami. The team played him at four different positions in its Week 1 loss. It’s something Fitzpatrick is not necessarily happy with. This is also what could have led to the Dolphins granting him permission to seek a trade.
Fitzpatrick entered the NFL having played both cornerback and safety in college. Though, he ascended the ranks as a single-high safety in 2016, recording six interceptions and two pick-sixes. While the youngster can play multiple positions, he’s likely suited for free safety or the slot. The defensive back has made it clear he doesn’t view himself as a strong safety.
“I’m not 215 pounds, 220 pounds. So playing in the box isn’t best suited for me, but that’s what Coach is asking me to do,” Fitzpatrick said ahead of the season.
While some might see Fitzpatrick’s ability to play multiple positions as a good thing, it might be time to let him hone in on dominating at a specific position.
It was originally reported that Miami is seeking a first-round pick for Fitzpatrick. The bounty it got for Tunsil might have led to this sky-high asking price. Though, another report suggests that Miami would likely settle for a second-round pick.
That would be an absolute bargain for any team around the NFL. We’re talking about a talented 22-year-old defensive back who has already flashed in just 17 career games. He’s under contract through the 2021 season with a team option for 2022. In a market that continues to reset itself at both cornerback and safety, Fitzpatrick would represent a huge bargain moving forward. It’s one of the primary reasons why Miami allowing him to seek a trade is so surprising.
From a 49ers perspective, they are a bit limited here. As we noted in focusing on Melvin Gordon, they don’t have a second-round pick in 2020 stemming from the Dee Ford trade. General manager John Lynch and Co. would have to get creative here. A few options come to mind.
Option One: 2020 fourth-round pick and 2021 second-round pick
Option Two: Solomon Thomas and 2020 third-round pick
Option Three: 49ers first-round pick in 2020 for Dolphins second-round pick in 2020
That latter option is most interesting in that the 49ers would be banking on themselves to compete for a playoff appearance moving forward on the season. A pick in the low 20s for Fitzpatrick and likely the top pick of the second round would be an absolute steal.
On the other hand, Miami would then be adding a third pick on Day 1 as it hopes to land Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. In turn, the Dolphins could hope that San Francisco falls off the map like we’ve seen the past two seasons. That would enable them to collect a top-10 pick.
This is where it gets interesting. San Francisco could make a trade for Fitzpatrick with the idea of him playing strictly in the slot. There’s certainly a need there. Veteran K’Waun Williams is a stop-gap option at best. Jimmie Ward has proven he can’t say healthy. Second-year player D.J. Reed is unproven.
Adding Fitzpatrick to the slot to go with Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon – especially after their Week 1 performances – would make this unit absolutely legit. Remember, San Franciso also has a plus-level safety tandem in that of Jaquiski Tartt and Tarvarius Moore.
That is where this gets a bit complicated. Would San Francisco look to potentially replace the injury-plagued Tartt with someone of Fitzpatrick’s ilk? Sure. The issue here is that Fitzpatrick has already noted that he doesn’t want to play strong safety.
That leaves free safety as the only viable remaining option outside of the slot. There’s absolutely no reason why the 49ers would target Fitzpatrick to play that position after what we’ve seen from Moore. The second-year player has looked absolutely tremendous. A move of this ilk would be redundant.
Does It Make Sense?
If you can add a player of Fitzpatrick’s ilk to the mix, you seriously consider doing it. San Francisco has needs at cornerback. At 6-foot, there’s an open question whether he can play on the outside. That’s limiting for some teams.
Not San Francisco. It could use a top-end slot guy moving forward. It would pretty much create top-10 starting defense.
Priorities. That’s the biggest key here. Lynch and Co. have showed that they’re willing to make trades of this ilk. See: Dee Ford and Jimmy Garoppolo. However, does the team view defense as a need over possibly running back and wide receiver? We can’t be too certain.
What we do know is that Fitzpatrick would fit well in a defense that’s filled with proven players and young talent. A core group moving forward consisting of DeForest Buckner, Nick Bosa, Fred Warner, Dee Ford, Kwon Alexander, Dre Greenlaw, Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, Tarvarius Moore and Minkah Fitzpatrick would be absolutely legit.
In turn, San Francisco would have some margin for error on offense. Kyle Shanahan wouldn’t need to field a top-10 unit on that side of the ball. Sure it’s not his MO as an offensive-minded coach, but it could work wonders moving forward.
Whether this means a trade could be in the cards is not yet known. But expect the 49ers to look into it internally.