If one thing is clear about the 49ers' offense after five weeks it's this: They badly could use a big, play-making receiver opposite Anquan Boldin, who has accounted for 67 percent of the team's wide-receiver catches and 78 percent of the wide-receiver yards. Which is why Josh Gordon, whom the Browns are dangling as trade bait, has to be very tempting to general manager Trent Baalke.
Gordon is everything the 49ers don't have at that spot. He's big - 6-3, 225 pounds. And he makes big catches down field. He caught his seventh career touchdown last week against Buffalo. All seven have been from 20 yards or longer. Gordon, who is averaging 16.8 yards a catch, was suspended for the first two games this year, but he still has more touchdown catches (two) this season than every 49ers wide receiver not named Anquan Boldin (zero).
ESPN's Adam Schefter and NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported this afternoon that the 49ers have inquired about Gordon and that the Browns are seeking a second-round pick in return. The Browns used a second-round pick to acquire Gordon in last year's supplemental draft. Both also reported that the deal is unlikely to go through because the 49ers are expecting to get Mario Manningham back this month and Michael Crabtree back next month.
That indeed would create a glut of wide receivers. But neither Manningham nor Crabtree give the 49ers the kind of explosive potential Gordon would bring. Furthermore, the 49ers certainly don't have a glut of receivers moving forward. Boldin, Manningham, Kyle Williams, Marlon Moore and Kassim Osgood all will be free agents in March. Crabtree is signed through 2014. And while reports about his Achilles' rehabilitation are very encouraging, there remains a risk that he won't return to his previous form.
Trade for Gordon now and the 49ers would have him through 2015.
Of course, there's a big risk involved. When a player enters the supplemental draft, he usually is covered in red flags. And Gordon fits that description. His suspension this year came after testing positive for codeine. If he fails another test, he faces a year-long suspension at least. With the Aldon Smith episode fresh in the 49ers' minds, that might be a hard trade to pull off. He also has reportedly had issues with his work ethic in Cleveland, which helps explain why the Browns want to move him.
But here's a couple more reasons Baalke might consider it. One, the 49ers are teeming with draft picks for next season - 13 total. That includes two likely second rounders. Should the Chiefs finish 8-8 or better, the third-round pick from last year's Alex Smith trade turns into a second-round pick. The Chiefs, if you haven't noticed, are 5-0. It's very hard to see the 49ers finding spots on the roster for 13 rookies, no matter how creative they get.
Finally, the 49ers, including Baalke, simply haven't been good at finding wide receivers. That goes back nearly 15 years and includes names like Rashaun Woods, Derrick Hamilton, Rasheed Marshall, Ronald Johnson and A.J. Jenkins. Baalke has a blindspot for the position. In Gordon, the 49ers would have a young, proven product. At least you'd know what he can do when he hits the field.
The NFL trade deadline is Oct. 29.
-- Matt Barrows