The 49ers are so desperate for wide receivers, they may even do the unexpected: make a trade with the Raiders.
This would have been unthinkable when Al Davis was alive, but this is a new day for the Raiders. New general manager Reggie McKenzie will do whatever it takes to improve the team, and what stands out now is that he has a glut of young, fast receivers, but no draft picks — except for supplemental ones — before the fifth round.
It seems that the Niners could get Louis Murphy, who has become the forgotten man in the Raiders’ offensive plan, for a third- or fourth-round pick. Murphy, after all, was only a fourth-round pick for the Raiders in 2009, but he has the speed to be the downfield target needed by quarterback Alex Smith, who is almost certain to return.
The 49ers will have Josh Morgan returning, after recovering from a broken ankle suffered in the fifth game of the 2011 season, and Morgan was developing nicely before he was hurt. But until he plays and shows he hasn’t suffered any long-term damage, he remains a question mark.
Murphy would be a definite step up from the other choices the Niners currently have: Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams. Ginn is a great kick returner and should be used primarily in that role. Williams made a couple of great plays in the game against the St. Louis Rams at Candlestick, but that was the Rams. He hasn’t shown much in other games.
Michael Crabtree had his best season, but disappeared in the postseason. Worse, while admitting that he wasn’t getting open in the NFC Championship Game, he complained that Smith should still have thrown him the ball and given him a chance to “make a play.” In other words, Smith should have thrown the ball into a crowd and hoped for the best. Crabtree obviously doesn’t understand his coach’s philosophy. Jim Harbaugh does not want the offense to turn the ball over on interceptions, and Smith followed that plan closely, with only five interceptions all season.
Even at his best, Crabtree is not a deep threat. He’s primarily a possession receiver with the chance to make a big play by running after the catch. If the Niners had a true deep threat, that would open up the field for him.
There is one tantalizing prospect on the free agent list: DeSean Jackson, who wore out his welcome in Philadelphia. But Jackson is the very definition of a me-first athlete. He was infamous at Cal for running bad routes that resulted in interceptions, and he had to be disciplined by coach Jeff Tedford at times, even being benched for the first quarter of the last game he played, the Armed Forces Bowl.
He continued that erratic behavior with the Eagles. Harbaugh showed he has zero tolerance for the me-first attitude when he cut Braylon Edwards. Despite Jackson’s undeniable talent, it’s hard to see him with the Niners. Because the 49ers will be drafting near the end of the first round, they won’t have a shot at the top collegiate receivers.
So, trading with the Raiders may be the 49ers’ best shot.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.