49ers Mailbag: Trades are best discussed in camp

49ers Mailbag: Trades are best discussed in camp
February 8, 2014, 8:00 pm
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For the 49ers to even consider shipping off LaMichael James, they must have a plan for someone else in the return game. (USATSI)

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It's the first weekend of the offseason, which means it's a good time to go to the 49ers Mailbag for another round of questions. . . 

Can you see the 49ers trading any of their players heading into the final year of their contract? (David Bonilla)
The 49ers cannot afford to trade away any player who is a starter. It makes no sense for them to get worse at a position for the pay off of a little cap space and a future draft pick. The 49ers are built to win, so they would not want to weaken themselves at positions, such as left guard (Mike Iupati) or wide receiver (Michael Crabtree), where they have players who might be difficult to re-sign.

[RELATED: 49ers not likely to make big splash in free agency]

More than likely, any trades talks will take place late in training camp at positions where the 49ers believe they have a surplus of players.

That was the case last summer at outside linebacker, where the 49ers felt good about backups Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier, so they sent Parys Haralson to New Orleans and Cam Johnson to Indianapolis.

Depending on the draft and free agency, the 49ers will be able to tell in training camp at what positions they will be forced to release players who could provide help to other teams. The 49ers want to make sure they do not weaken their depth to the point where an injury or two could have a disastrous impact.

The last thing the 49ers want to do is make a trade to get rid of a good player early in the offseason and then find themselves in a position where injuries have taken a toll and they wish they had that player back.

[RELATED: Key to keeping a staff together: Keep winning]

Will Marcus Lattimore be ready for the off-season program? (Matt Purcell)
Lattimore said he believes he could have played late in his rookie season. He did everything in practices for three weeks late in the season, and he is expected to be full-go when the offseason program is scheduled begin on April 21.

Would Gore consider taking a vet minimum? Does LMJ have trade value equal to his 2nd round pick status? (Dan Eberhardt)
The 49ers would never ask Frank Gore to play for the minimum. That would be an insult for a player who has done so much for the organization and played 75-percent of the team’s offensive snaps last season.

The 49ers have the option, however, of seeing what the market is like for veteran running backs. Then, they could approach Gore about reducing his scheduled $6.45 million pay.

As for LaMichael James, there is no way he still has second-round value in a trade. His value is not as great because he has only two seasons remaining on his contract.

James could find himself on the trade block with a running back corps that could consist of Gore, Lattimore, Kendall Hunter, Jewel Hampton and any other offseason additions. But for the 49ers to even consider shipping off James, they must have a plan for someone else in the return game.

If Whitner isn't re-signed, is Eric Reid moved to SS and a center fielder type of FS drafted? (Elio Acosta Jr.)
The most likely scenario if the 49ers lose Donte Whitner is they would go after someone similar to Eric Reid so they can play mirror-image safeties. They can have two safeties who are interchangeable, as far as playing coverage and coming up in the box for run support. That kind of versatility would give defensive coordinator Vic Fangio more options with his scheme.

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