Wednesday's NFL: 49ers All-Pro WR Deebo Samuel reportedly requests trade
Santa Clara, Calif. — All-Pro receiver Deebo Samuel told ESPN on Wednesday that he has requested a trade from the San Francisco 49ers as the two sides have been unable to negotiate a long-term deal for one of the league's top playmakers.
Samuel is entering the final year of the rookie deal he signed after being drafted in the second round in 2019 and is looking to take advantage of the exploding market of receiver contracts.
Samuel is set to be paid nearly $4 million this season after being a first-team All-Pro in 2021. Eight receivers have gotten new contracts this offseason worth at least $18 million a year, including Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams after trades from their old teams.
If the Niners give in to Samuel's demand he would be the latest star receiver to switch teams this offseason. Green Bay got a first and second-round pick from the Raiders for Adams, while Kansas City got a first, a second and three lower-round picks from Miami for Hill.
Samuel didn't give a reason to ESPN for his demand and the Niners and his agent didn't immediately comment on the request.
The NFL draft starts next Thursday and San Francisco could look to add a first-round pick after trading theirs away last season to move up for quarterback Trey Lance.
San Francisco traded away a star player instead of paying him a big contract in the 2020 offseason when the Niners dealt defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis for a first-round pick.
The 49ers used that pick to take Javon Kinlaw, who has struggled with injuries his first two seasons and has not made up for Buckner's absence.
Replacing Samuel could be even more challenging after he emerged as a star in 2021 with the unique ability to thrive as both a running back and a receiver in coach Kyle Shanahan's offense.
Samuel finished the season with 1,770 yards from scrimmage and 14 TDs. Hall of Famer Jerry Rice is the only Niners receiver ever to gain more yards from scrimmage in a season than Samuel did last year.
Samuel had 77 catches for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns, leading the NFL with 18.2 yards per reception. He added 59 carries for 365 yards and eight TDs as he was used out of the backfield frequently in the second half of the season.
Samuel never complained about the heavy workload and coined a new name for his position, calling himself a “wide back.”
But after dealing with injuries in college and early in his NFL career, it's likely that Samuel will want a long-term deal in place before having another season with that kind of load.
The 49ers also are trying to negotiate a long-term deal with edge rusher Nick Bosa, who was picked second overall, a round ahead of Samuel in 2019. San Francisco will exercise the fifth-year option on Bosa but could try to lock him up this offseason.
The Niners currently have little room on the salary cap, but can create significant room by cutting or trading quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. San Francisco is expected to turn the offense over to Lance this season, but finding a suitor for Garoppolo's $24.2 million salary has been made more difficult because few teams are in the market for a QB and Garoppolo is coming off shoulder surgery.
Haskins apparently ran out of gas before being fatally hit
For Lauderdale, Fla. — The wife of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Dwayne Haskins called Florida 911 dispatchers shortly after he was fatally struck by a dump truck earlier this month, saying his car had run out of gas and she was worried because he wasn't answering the phone, according to recordings released Wednesday.
Kalabrya Haskins, who was calling from Pittsburgh and unaware of the accident, told a Florida Highway Patrol dispatcher on April 9 that her 24-year-old husband had called from near Fort Lauderdale to say he was walking to get gas and would call her back. When the former Ohio State star didn't, she told the dispatcher she tried to call him but he wasn't answering.
“I just want somebody to go in the area and see if his car is there and if he’s OK and if anything happened to him," she said, her voice breaking. "It’s not like him" to not call back, she said.
The highway patrol had already received numerous panicked calls about the accident that happened about dawn on Interstate 595 near Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. But the dispatcher did not appear to know yet that paramedics had arrived and found Haskins dead. He had been in South Florida training with Steelers teammates.
"I don’t want you to panic, but I am going to be honest with you,” the dispatcher told Kalabrya Haskins. “We do have an incident on the highway, but I can’t confirm if that’s your husband or not.”
The dispatcher then told her to “hang tight” while she tried to get more information. While on hold, Kalabrya Haskins starts crying and praying, but her words were mostly unintelligible.
“Please Lord, please Lord,” she said.
The dispatcher then comes back on the call. She told Kalabrya Haskins to stay by her phone and someone would call her.
The accident report released Wednesday says witnesses told investigators Haskins was trying to cross the highway when he went into the path of the dump truck. The truck knocked him into the path of a car, which also struck him.
Haskins starred at Ohio State in 2018, setting several school passing records and being named the MVP in both the Big Ten Championship game and in the Buckeyes' Rose Bowl win over the Washington Huskies.
A 2019 first-round draft pick by the Washington Redskins, Haskins was released by the team after going 3-10 over two seasons. He was signed by Pittsburgh as a developmental QB, but he didn’t appear in a game last season.
Most teams welcomed back NFL combine; some snubbed it
Indianapolis — Comparison shopping and face-to-face contact with college prospects returned to the NFL this year after the 2021 scouting combine was scuttled by the pandemic.
Talent evaluators welcomed back college pro days and private workouts even as the COVID-19 broadside entered its third year. The core of the league's back-to-normal blueprint was the return of the NFL scouting combine to Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis.
No more relying solely on virtual visits like last year.
“The Zoom meetings we have with players or with reporters or anybody else, the engagement just isn’t the same as being here,” declared Jaguars general manager Trent Baalke, who again owns the top pick in the NFL draft.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said that while teams have fused Zoom calls and FaceTime interviews into the spring evaluation process, “I like seeing players up close and personal, sitting down with them and watching tape with them."
Yet, while Lions head coach Dan Campbell was present in Indianapolis, not all head coaches embraced the combine's comeback.
Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan and Robert Saleh all skipped this year's event in which 324 players showed off some combination of their athleticism, fitness, skill, speed, quickness, strength and savvy for scouts, coaches and general managers in attendance.
“I think it’s still valuable from the standpoint of watching these guys all move around on the field together,” said NFL Network analyst and former pro scout Daniel Jeremiah, who calls the scouting combine the ultimate cluster-buster when it comes to teams setting their draft boards.
Say you have four cornerbacks with the same grade in your third-round stack, Jeremiah said, “and they're out there on the same field at the same time doing the same drills. It really helps to be able to separate and evaluate those guys.”
That could prove pivotal this year with a pool of prospects much deeper than last year's.
“This year especially, the difference between the 15th player and the 60th player in the draft is very small, and teams are going to have those guys in all different orders,” Jeremiah said.
Hitting on draft picks has always been a harbinger of success, although the Rams just won the Super Bowl with a roster built through trades and free agency.
The Rams don’t have a selection until the third round because they traded their first-round pick to Detroit for Matthew Stafford and their second to Denver for Von Miller. So, GM Les Snead, who famously wore a T-shirt at the championship parade mocking his team's lack of draft picks, joined McVay in skipping out on the combine.
San Francisco GM John Lynch, whose first pick is the 29th selection of Round 2, said Shanahan and his staff snubbed the combine so they could integrate new assistants in Santa Clara while evaluating prospects with their personnel department and scouts in Indianapolis.
“Kyle and I talked and we felt like his time and his staff’s time were best spent there," Lynch said. "The great thing about what we’ve learned over the last couple of years is when we’re interviewing players, those respective coaches and coordinators and Kyle will get on the Zooms. And so even though they aren’t here, they are here.”
Saleh and his staff coached in the Senior Bowl. Combined with the new primetime workouts creating more downtime for a lot of position coaches during the day, Saleh figured the Jets were better served staying in Florham Park.
Saleh scoffed at the notion that the Jets missed out by not being in the room with prospects during their interviews.
“If you’re going into the combine thinking a 20-minute interview is going to make or break whether or not you’re going to give a young man millions and millions of dollars, shame on you," Saleh said. “We still have pro days. We still have private workouts. We still have our 30 visits. We still have so many more conversations, phone conversations, Zooms.”
Chargers GM Tom Telesco said the 20-minute in-person interviews with players are “less valuable than if you had a guy on a Zoom for an extended amount of time. It is only 18-20 minutes here, you can’t figure a lot out in that time and you can’t get a feel for a player in that time.”
Ravens GM Eric DeCosta is among those who insist there's no substitute for the in-person interaction at the combine for those making the call when their team is on the clock.
"I think the access to the players is critical ... to get a chance to assess things like growth, mindset, motivation, ability to overcome adversity, resiliency," DeCosta said.
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said it was important for him to attend the combine because “I just value this time to be able to look the player in the eye.”
“I’m not going to be able to go to every pro day, to go to every private workout or anything like that. So, it’s good to be able to get my eyes on them here,” Sirianni said. “It’s good to be around the guys and see them work out and get to put a face to who you’ve been watching on tape.”
A face, and a body.
“The thing about it is you get to see the full body language,” suggested Washington Commanders coach Ron Rivera. “You ask a specific question, you put a specific thing up on the board and they get a chance to look at it and digest it. You just watch them and study and it’s so much better than when all you see is just that little square.
"I mean, you’re seeing the whole reaction, everything from the face to the body, the way they sit in their chair, the way they straighten up, you know? And if the questions get hard, you can see their reaction. That’s really the thing that I think we missed last year about a lot of these guys.”
Browns GM Andrew Berry said Zoom calls are entrenched in the evaluation process to one degree or another now because they save time and money.
SiriusXM analyst and former Buccaneers GM Mark Dominik said the combine can expect a handful of snubs annually "because we’ve morphed into a Zoom community and it’s made it so much easier."
“It’s something that most of us weren’t used to doing and now we all know how to set up a meeting, join the meeting and add people to meetings," he said. But, "there is going to always be that hands-on, in-person. experience, too, I’m sure. You can do 20 Zoom calls and when you go to dinner with somebody you know, or somebody don’t know, certainly it’s a different kind of connection.”
Bills coach Sean McDermott said he'll never boycott the combine.
“We haven't gotten to where we're trying to get to,” McDermott said. “And I could tell you, when we do, I'm still going to come here. I just feel like this is an important part of the process of improving our football team.”