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Trading A.J. Jenkins was a bold move. Will it pay off for the 49ers?

Al Sacco
Aug 19, 2013 at 11:32 AM13


Well, that escalated quickly.

After a disappointing rookie year and an underwhelming preseason, the 49ers traded the embattled A.J. Jenkins to the Kansas City Chiefs for wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin.

"We are pleased to add Jonathan to our team and look forward to incorporating him into our offense," said general manager Trent Baalke through a statement.


There are a couple of different angles to look at here. The first is the 49ers willingness to part ways with their former first round pick before he even began his second season. That alone speaks volumes to what the team actually thought of Jenkins. For all of the strengths the 49ers have, wide receiver is not one of them at the moment. They may have quantity at the position but it's unknown how much quality is actually there.

Rumors had been swirling that Jenkins was falling out of favor after his lack luster performance against the Denver Broncos, but it seemed like a long shot that the 49ers would actually pull the trigger on unloading him. This is where Trent Baalke deserves credit. Cutting ties with a first round pick after just one season isn't exactly common place. It's an admission of failure by a general manager and most around the league would be hesitant to make such a bold move. But Baalke has built an outstanding track record in a short amount of time. That history allows him to make a move like this and not be scrutinized. Draft picks like Mike Iupati, Anthony Davis, NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith and Colin Kaepernick more than make up for one swing and miss (albeit a big one).

The other angle here is Jonathan Baldwin himself. Baldwin, the 26th overall pick in the 2011 draft, has 41 receptions for 579 yards and two touchdowns during his career with the Chiefs (If you're keeping count at home, that is 41 receptions, 579 yards and two touchdowns more than Jenkins). Those numbers are not what you would call prolific but the Chiefs passing game hasn't exactly been explosive the past two seasons. His quarterbacks over that time were Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko, Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn.

Baldwin could be another boon for the 49ers offense. The receiver stands at 6'4 and weighs 240 pounds. He ran a 4.49 40 yard dash and has a 42 inch vertical leap. Considering those physical tools, and at only 24 years old, he still has time to develop. NFL Films guru Greg Cosell recently compared him to Vincent Jackson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"When I watched him on film coming out of Pitt, he looked like he could be a Vincent Jackson-type receiver," said Cosell. "He's a big, physical kid who moves well."


Baldwin has shown some big play ability, averaging 16.3 yards per catch last season. He will have to get up to speed with the 49ers quickly, and should see action as soon as the next preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings. It's unknown how much of an impact he can make initially, as he is coming into a new offensive system.

The 49ers do have some certainties at wide receiver at the moment. Anquan Boldin, Kyle Williams, Marlon Moore, and rookie Quinton Patton all are or look like locks to make the roster. Assuming the team keeps six wide outs, that leaves room for two more. Baldwin, barring a disaster, has a an excellent shot to fill one of the remaining slots and has the talent to eventually become a playmaker in San Francisco.

On the other side, could this trade serve as a wake up call for Jenkins and motivate him to be the player the 49ers thought he would be initially? It could. He may end up being a very good receiver in Kansas City. For whatever reason though, it was doubtful that was going to happen in San Francisco. Only time will give us the answers on how this bold move by the 49ers will play out, but it looks like a move that had to happen for the team to move forward.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


13 Comments

  • benjamin
    Good to correct a mistake early. Hope J. Baldwin works out
    Aug 27, 2013 at 8:26 AM
    0
  • jeff
    This is a great move. SF needs some big receivers that will be able to shed the big CB's in Seattle that shut down their passing game. The biggest threat to the niners will be the seahawks.
    Aug 25, 2013 at 9:18 AM
    0
  • Gonzola
    Just wanted to say - this is a SMART move. You can't catch then you gotta go. I wish it would of worked out with AJ -- I liked the kid. Also, for all those who doubt "the plan". Look for a BLOWOUT game in at least one of the last two preseason games. Sooner or later they have to spread their wings and it is only a matter of time. Coach H knows what he is doing and all this shuffling is by design. I still can NOT stand the Roman play calling and I think this is continuing to keep the 49ers down. Call plays that keep the ball moving and that utilize the talent you have on the field at the time the play is called! Keep the faith and watch Eddie D: A Football Life every week of the season. GOD Bless the team and the Niner Nation as a whole.
    Aug 21, 2013 at 8:40 AM
    0
  • MikeW
    This is a steal for SF. Traded a guy who can't play period for an underachiever with vastly superior physical tools. Also cap savings in '14.
    Aug 20, 2013 at 12:05 PM
    0
  • Jersey9er
    I figured its an even swap and both teams hope that they pan out. all pre-season and in training camp, jenkins was dropping balls one minute and catching the next. too inconsistent. Baldwin from the chiefs threads was dropping passes in practice. and he dropped 3 in the chiefs and 49ers game. Now not a knock on him, but if he couldnt hold onto Smith's passes, i hope he works that jug machine to catch Kaep's darts. Either way, should be very interesting to see if either makes their swapped teams 53 man roster.
    Aug 20, 2013 at 5:11 AM
    0
  • Hack
    There are too many 9er targets counting on using the slot: Williams, Collie, LMJ, even Vernon Davis. That being AJ's only possible value meant his departure. Baldwin is a true wideout who needs mentoring (Vernon Davis and Anquan Boldin) a strong arm (Kap) and an array of schemes ( GRo and Harbaugh). He also must know he is on the bubble. Time to see what he's got
    Aug 19, 2013 at 10:01 PM
    0
  • Ladale
    How the heck do you let go of a 6'4 230lb receiver after only two seasons. The 1st season he broke his risk horsing around with a teammate. His second season was mired in quarterback controversy. I'm reading Chiefs blogs and they are saying the Q.B.'s would lock unto their 1st option in Bowe and subsequently check it down if he was covered, or over threw the guy (Baldwin) when he was open. That said, you all are right, the last thing 49er opponents wanted to see is the 9ers with an additional big bodied red zone target.
    Aug 19, 2013 at 9:50 PM
    0
  • R&G
    I hope he can at least be a red zone specialist. Can you imagine Boldin, VD, and Baldwin in the red zone. Nice big targets, Baldwin just needs to hang on to the ball after he sheds off a puny CB
    Aug 19, 2013 at 5:09 PM
    0
  • ttime1
    Is it possible that the 49ers made this move in an attempt to acquire a different needed skill set? The team has 4-5 receivers on the team who matches Jenkin's attributes; small, fast and shifty. They had few big-fast receivers. Vis-a Vis for the Chiefs. Both players are young assets and although they may not have yet to live up to their potential; no one will argue that they do not have room for growth. This is a good move for both teams and players.
    Aug 19, 2013 at 4:03 PM
    0
    Response: I think baldwin really intrigues them. Like you said he's kind of a different player than what they currently have. Nice red zone target too.
  • Craig
    This league is about winning not protecting your ego. Credit to Baalke for making the move and cutting his loses. Also to Jed York's credit, he has shown enough confidence in his GM, that Baalke doesn't have to worry about how this will effect his record. I didn't know much about Jenkins when they drafted him. I didn't like that he didn't work out with Jerry Rice. Next man up.
    Aug 19, 2013 at 3:11 PM
    0
  • Frank
    Hopefully this will be a fresh start for both players. For whatever reasons, Jenkins was just having a tough time in SF. He had enough mentoring...sometimes despite that, players just don't "get it". Occasionally, a change of scenery enables them to see the light. On the surface, it sure looks like another very good trade Baalke made. Baldwin seems to have all the tools...just needs the right coaching in the right offense to use them effectively.
    Aug 19, 2013 at 1:42 PM
    0
  • ninersush
    i think where it was a bad sign for me was when GOAT wanted jenkins to run the hill and jenkins never did. when you have GOAT wanting to work out with you, you drop everything and work out with him.
    Aug 19, 2013 at 12:06 PM
    0
  • NinerDawg
    Another Rashaun Woods.
    Aug 19, 2013 at 11:47 AM
    0
    Response: Not sure if Jenkins likes to fish but, yeah, looks comparable.

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