The San Francisco 49ers are one of the most talented teams in the league and they have the kind of roster that gives general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan a legitimate chance to win the NFC Championship and play in the Super Bowl.
The 49ers don’t necessarily have to make any moves in order to get there and raise the Vince Lombardi Trophy. However, the NFL doesn’t usually work that way. Very few executive and head coaches say “we are good enough,” and then let the cards play out.
Building a championship team is almost always an ongoing process that does not stop. The October 31 trade deadline will seemingly stop a team from bringing in great players on other rosters, but executives continue to make their lists of what needs to be better and which players can help their team get to the top of the mountain.
For a team like the Kansas City Chiefs, they want to stay on top. For the 49ers, they want to get there. As a result, look for Lynch to pull off at least one key move to make the Niners even more dangerous.
Look what the competition has done
The 49ers made it to the NFC Championship game a year ago, but they fell short when quarterback Brock Purdy was injured against the Philadelphia Eagles. As a result, the San Francisco offense could not keep up with Philadelphia and quarterback Jalen Hurts. The Niners suffered a 31-7 defeat.
The Eagles remain the 49ers’ top competition in the 2023 season. While teams like the Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions and possibly the Seattle Seahawks could mount a challenge, it would be a shocker if the Eagles and the Niners don’t meet at some point in the playoffs. Most expect that meeting to come in the NFC title game.
The Eagles are rolling again, and they are not standing still. They have already acquired Kevin Byard from the Tennessee Titans, and that is a huge move. Byard is a two-time All-Pro safety and he is one of the best players at his position in the league.
The Eagles sent safety Terrell Edmunds plus 2024 fifth- and sixth-round picks to Tennessee in exchange for the defensive back.
Byard has been the best and most consistent player on the Tennessee defense, and he figures to be a difference maker for the Eagles. Prior to coming to the Eagles, Byard had 47 tackles and 1 fumble recovery this season.
He had 108 tackles last year with 6 passes defensed and 4 interceptions. The Eagles expect similar production from Byard in 2023.
Niners must counter
If the 49ers are going to send a signal to the players in the locker room that they have a team that can battle the 49ers on even terms or better, they must make a move of similar or bigger impact.
If Lynch can work a trade with the Carolina Panthers for outside linebacker/edge rusher Brian Burns, that could be the move that gives the Niners a chance to bypass their rivals.
Burns has 20 tackles, 4.0 sacks and 1 forced fumble to this point in the season. He had a remarkable season in 2022 as he came through with 63 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 3 passes defense and 1 forced fumble. When Burns is on his game, he is capable of taking over and dominating.
The Panthers are a winless team, and they are in an obvious rebuild mode. They traded their first-round draft pick in the upcoming draft to the Chicago Bears when they selected Bryce Young, so there is a need for a high draft pick.
However, the Niners won’t select until near the end of the first round, so trading for Burns might cost even more than a No. 1 pick.
If the Niners can’t make a deal for Burns, they could be looking at offensive guard Ezra Cleveland of the Minnesota Vikings or cornerback Jaylon Johnson of the Chicago Bears.
Neither player would cost anywhere near as much as Burns, and both could upgrade the Niners.
Cleveland is an improving interior lineman who is valued by the Vikings. While the Vikings have won 3 of 4 games, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah may not think the team can come all the way back and earn a playoff spot.
If that ‘s the case, Cleveland may be available.
Johnson and the Bears are not making the playoffs. The defensive back is probably Chicago’s best defensive player. He has 15 tackles, 3 passes defensed and 2 interceptions. He returned one of those picks for a touchdown.
Johnson’s skill in the secondary could help the Niners’ defensive depth.