Foster wasn’t the only player the 49ers stole from the Saints

May 3, 2017 at 10:14 AM--

On Thursday, the San Francisco 49ers stole the Chicago Bears' lunch money and then went on to steal the girlfriend from the New Orleans Saints. General manager John Lynch, head coach Kyle Shanahan, and chief strategy officer and executive vice president of football operations Paraag Marathe were the architects of a trade with Chicago to move down one spot, net additional draft picks for the team, and still got the player who they were coveting – Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas.

Then the team then maneuvered back into the first round and stole Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster from the grips of the Saints. New Orleans head coach Sean Payton was literally on the phone welcoming Foster to the team when the 49ers leaped ahead of the Saints and called the linebacker on the other line.

That was not the last time over the three days that the 49ers would steal a coveted player from the Saints. According to an article posted today by Peter King on The MMQB, a follow-up to his acclaimed article from Monday in which he chronicled the events from within the 49ers war room, the 49ers did the same thing following the draft on Saturday.

As told by King, following the 49ers final pick of the draft, the team started calling players who they felt might go undrafted. One of those players was Louisville tight end Cole Hikutini – whom the 49ers highly sought. The perception was that Hikutini didn't have blazing speed and the 49ers had already drafted a blocking tight end in George Kittle from Iowa.

Vice president of player personnel Adam Peters informed the coaching staff that Hikutini was hurt when he ran a 4.8-second 40-yard dash and that the tight end was actually faster. "When healthy, Peters said, Hikutini would be a separator," King wrote. "That's what the head coach demanded."

Once the draft ended, Peters called Hikutini's agent and tight end coach Jon Embree pitched the benefits of signing with the 49ers to the player himself.

King wrote the following:

"Over two hours, Peters estimated, Embree called Hikutini five times. Shanahan—competing with Sean Payton of the Saints at the end—called him twice. Lynch called him once. Peters sent several texts, and more to Hahn as the derby went on. Something else helped quite a bit: the money. Each NFL team has $98,000 to spend on undrafted college free agents. That's not much, so the 49ers (through Marathe and director of football administration and analytics Brian Hampton) use an approach that several teams use too: They guarantee some money from a player's prospective salary in his rookie year (either on the practice squad or 53-man roster), figuring that it's likely that such a highly regarded player as the top undrafted free agent on the board would at least make the team's practice squad."

The final offer from the 49ers was a $10,000 signing bonus and $100,000 in guaranteed money. That sealed the deal and yet another player was stolen from the Saints' grasp.

"Opportunity to make a roster is crucial," Peters told King. "But ultimately the money is going to sway a lot of guys. It gives us a chance to be competitive with a lot of players. I think with Cole, we won him over with our situation and our control."

Hikutini's Measurables

Height: 6-4
Weight: 247 lbs.
Arm length: 32 3/4 inches
Hand length: 10 inches

Hikutini's College Statistics

Year G Rec Yds YPC TD
2013 9 21 204 9.7 5
2015 11 19 348 18.3 3
2016 13 50 668 13.3 8
Totals 33 90 1,220 13.6 16

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