Both of the centerpieces of the 49ers’ blockbuster trade with the Chicago Bears in 2017 have uncertain futures with their respective teams.
The 49ers traded the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft to the Bears for the No. 3 pick, a third-rounder (No. 67), a fourth-rounder (No. 111) and a 2018 third-round pick (No. 70). San Francisco picked defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, and Chicago selected quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
It turned into a deal that both teams would mostly like to forget. The Bears and 49ers reportedly declined each player’s fifth-year option within a day of one another.
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Trubisky was selected before elite QBs Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes, both of whom would’ve been far better choices for the 49ers and Bears. San Francisco did manage to select a defensive staple with one of Chicago’s picks, but general manager John Lynch’s maneuvering during his first draft ultimately didn’t turn into much -- with one notable exception.
The 49ers used the 2018 third-round pick to select linebacker Fred Warner. Warner has been a starter since Day 1, compiling 242 total tackles -- good for 11th in the NFL -- over the last two seasons. He has been a key pieces of the 49ers’ defense that grew into one of the league’s best, and figures to be a long-term fixture at linebacker.
Warner was a Pro Bowl alternate last season, but the remainder of the 49ers’ 2017 haul hasn’t come close to those heights.
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The 49ers traded the Bears’ third-round pick to the New Orleans Saints for a 2018 second-round pick (No. 59) and a 2017 seventh-rounder (No. 229). San Francisco picked Adrian Colbert in the seventh round in 2017, using the 2018 second-rounder to trade up in a deal with Washington to select wide receiver Dante Pettis. Colbert was waived in 2019, while Pettis fell far down the depth chart.
Meanwhile, the Saints used the 2017 third-rounder the 49ers dealt to pick running back Alvin Kamara, who has made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three NFL seasons. Washington selected running back Derrius Guice with the 2018 second-rounder, who has only played five NFL games due to knee injuries.
The 49ers used the Bears’ 2017 fourth-rounder to trade up into that year’s first round to draft Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster. San Francisco cut Foster after being arrested on a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence. He landed with Washington, which reportedly declined his fifth-year option. Foster was reinstated from the Commissioner’s Exempt List in April, but he missed the 2019 season after tearing his ACL last May.
While the 49ers still have hope for Thomas and Pettis to take strides next season, you can add Kamara to a list of growing “what-ifs” for San Francisco’s 2017 draft. The aforementioned misses didn’t set the 49ers back in returning to prominence, and they did also land All-Pro tight end George Kittle in the fifth round.
Franchise quarterbacks are hard to find, however, especially on cost-controlled rookie deals. Although the 49ers will take Warner’s production any day of the week, the Bears reportedly declining Trubisky’s fifth-year option is the latest reminder for both teams of what could’ve been.