Citing multiple sources, Pro Football Talk today reported that the 49ers and Browns were close to pulling off a whopper of a trade that would have sent multiple draft picks from Cleveland to San Francisco. The kicker: It involved head coach Jim Harbaugh and not a player.
The report said that Harbaugh ultimately nixed the deal. Team owner Jed York took to Twitter to write, "report isn't true."
The backdrop to the alleged transaction is Harbaugh's pending contract extension. The two sides began discussing one last year but talks broke off with no progress with the understanding they would resume this offseason. Harbaugh, who took the 49ers at least to the NFC Championship game in the three seasons he has been in San Francisco, just completed the third year of a five-year deal that pays him $5 million a year. He is currently the third-highest-paid coach in the NFC West.
It's also notable that Harbaugh's close friend, Mike Lombardi, is the former general manager of the Browns. Harbaugh hired Lombardi's son, Mick, to his staff last season. Lombardi was let go in Cleveland earlier this month. The team ultimately hired former Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine four days after the 49ers lost to the Seahawks in the NFC Championship game.
Cleveland issued a statement today that did not deny they discussed trading for Harbaugh.
"The team conducted an extensive coaching search, and explored several options," the statement read. "That search produced an outstanding head coach in Mike Pettine and we're excited about his future with the club."
General manager Trent Baalke spoke to the media today in Indianapolis before the report of trade talks surfaced. A report in The Mercury News two months ago cited a strained relationship between Harbaugh and Baalke, who has the ultimate say in personnel decisions. Baalke, however, painted a rosy picture of his relationship with Harbaugh as it pertains to scouting prospects.
"There's been no change," Baalke said. "We continue to work hard at it. What we're trying to do is get it right for the 49ers and the best way to get it right is to be on the same page and to work hard together and try to make the best decisions for the team and the organization as a whole. We're going to continue to do that, so from that standpoint nothing has changed."
The 49ers have not yet commented on the report.
-- Matt Barrows