Posted August 19, 2013

49ers and Chiefs swap disappointing receivers in A.J. Jenkins-Jonathan Baldwin trade

Kansas City Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers
After one disappointing season in San Francisco, A.J. Jenkins will look to turn it around in a new home. (Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

After one lost season in San Francisco, A.J. Jenkins will look to turn it around in a new home. (Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

The San Francisco 49ers are one of the NFL’s model organizations, but even the best front offices boot it from time to time. General manager Trent Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t get a single start from anyone in their 2012 draft class last year, and first-round pick A.J. Jenkins was the biggest disappointment of all. The Illinois product, taken with the 30th overall selection in the draft, played in just three games and didn’t register a single catch. The 49ers needed Jenkins to step up in his second season and be a reliable deep receiver for Colin Kaepernick, but that wasn’t happening — through two preseason games, Jenkins had one catch on five targets. The other four targets netted the 49ers two interceptions and a lost fumble.

There had been rumors that the 49ers were ready to move on, possibly cutting Jenkins outright — a nearly unprecedented move for a second-year first-round pick. Instead, per multiple reports, Baalke and Harbaugh have disposed of Jenkins in a trade to the Kansas City Chiefs. In return, the 49ers will get receiver Jonathan Baldwin, another disappointing first-round wideout.

“We would like to thank A.J. for his efforts as a member of the 49ers and wish him all the best with the Kansas City Chiefs,” Baalke said in a statement released by the team Monday morning. “We are pleased to add Jonathan to our team and look forward to incorporating him into our offense. Both players have been presented a great opportunity for a new beginning with their respective teams.”

When some tried to suggest last season that Jenkins wasn’t living up to his draft stock, Harbaugh was not amused.

“A.J Jenkins was an outstanding football player when he got here,” the coach said in July of 2012 after Jenkins appeared to be overwhelmed by the high workload of an NFL system. “His progress has been very, very good, and exceeded expectations. For those — the scribes, pundits, so-called experts — who have gone so far as to say that he’s going to be a bust, should just stop. I recommend that because they’re making themselves look more clueless than they already did.

“I’ll go on record: A.J. is going to be an outstanding football player. So far in camp and what he’s done in the off-season has led us to believe nothing but he’ll be an outstanding football player in the National Football League.

“I’m going to keep track of some of these names of so-called experts who were making these comments. And there’s going to be an ‘I told you so.’ I foresee that happening.”

On Monday, Harbaugh back-tracked a bit, and tried to explain how Jenkins could redeem himself in a general sense.

“I’ll just speak from personal experience,” he said. “I was rejected by a team, sent to another team and then with the next team my signature years came. So it can be a real positive and that’s what everybody hopes for in this situation. A.J. is a very talented player. He has never been an issue or a problem as a teammate. He competes. He works very hard and there’s no reason that both these guys can’t end up having a great career. Another example — I won’t use myself but we’ll use the great Cris Carter. Receiver in Philadelphia, Buddy Ryan sent him to Minnesota and then a Hall of Fame career ensued. Those are opportunities that both of these young men have, and I think they definitely have the ability and license to get that done.”

Harbaugh played quarterback for the Chicago Bears from 1987 through 1993, but his best seasons came with the Indianapolis Colts from 1994 through 1997. The 1995 Colts came within a couple plays of Super Bowl XXX, but lost the AFC title game to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

As for Baldwin, he was taken 26th overall by the Chiefs in the 2011 draft by ex-GM Scott Pioli, and his two years in the NFL have been far from spectacular. He’s caught just 41 passes for 579 yards and two touchdowns in those two seasons, often struggling with ball security and route accuracy. Those issues have continued through the new regime of head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey, and Reid recently said that he was running out of patience.

“We gave him the opportunity this week, and you have to catch the football,” Reid told ESPN.com. “That’s how it works, and he knows that and I know that. When we give you an opportunity, you have to make sure you take advantage of the opportunity … He needs to keep playing, and [when] given the opportunity, he needs to take advantage of it.”

Harbaugh, as is his wont, was more succinct when asked about Jenkins’ future with the franchise on Sunday.

“Things factor in, but it’s long-standing,” he said. “Football hasn’t changed since its inception. Best players make the team.”

In the Chiefs’ official statement, Dorsey had this to say: “We felt like this trade was beneficial for all parties involved. A.J. is a talented individual with a skill set that we feel can add value to our football team. Jon Baldwin is a hardworking player and a professional. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”

19 comments
Miklos
Miklos

I think it is too late though. This <a href="http://dcfxbroker.com" rel="nofollow">trading</a> has just come way too late.

username*1
username*1

Crabtree going down is a big setback. Harbaugh realizes that Kaepernick needs easier (very open) targets. His ego has grown substantially along with his quick reaction to just run. Two ingredients for injury. 

K-Jun
K-Jun

Devery Henderson should be considered by those teams looking for a receiver to stretch the field. Saints released him recently as they have many younger speedy receivers. There is still some high octane fuel in Henderson's tank. He will be playing somewhere that is for sure. 

mgranadosv
mgranadosv

The current SF regime does a great job at developing players and making the ones they already have better, but they seem to swing and miss with their draft.

Cougarblue
Cougarblue

Jenkins was abysmal on the field, yet talked "game" as if it was smoke and mirrors making him look so incompetant rather than reality. Maybe he took Harbough's words of support too literally. Andy, he's your problem now. Coach Reid is an accountability guy, Jenkins either finds himself or the locker room will insure he's waived.

Matthew Peake
Matthew Peake

Good move by the Niners if for no other reason than cap purposes in '14.  Jenkins was owed guaranteed money in '14 where Baldwin is not. If the Niners had simply cut Jenkins, they would have suffered a cap hit in '13 and'14.  This way, the worst case scenario is they cut Baldwin and suffer a cap hit this year only.  Plus, Baldwin caught 20 for 325 and 1 last year, which is exactly 20 for 325 and 1 more than Jenkins. Baldwin's QB's last year were Matt Cassel (QB rating 66.7, ESPN QBR 36.5) and Brady Quinn (60.1 and 27.4). The 49ers had CK (98.3 and 76.8) and Alex Smith (104.1 and 70.1).  Niners doing their best to make lemonade....

Merv
Merv

Harbaugh must be getting tired of backtracking on his statements all the time.  Sounds more like Ryan Braun everyday.

MinisterWilliamAaronBerryIII
MinisterWilliamAaronBerryIII

Maybe they will fair better on different teams & schemes!The Niners 2012 draft was deplorable.  I laughed when I saw their picks.  Absolutely pathetic.  The draft this year was not much better.  Baldwin may make the team but that will only be because they are desperate for any wide receivers.  Their wide receiver corpse is a joke.  No way Boldin can be a #1 wide receiver anymore and he is the only one on the team that is even any good.  They could go all year without Crabtree and Manningham

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

The Niners 2012 draft was deplorable.  I laughed when I saw their picks.  Absolutely pathetic.  The draft this year was not much better.  Baldwin may make the team but that will only be because they are desperate for any wide receivers.  Their wide receiver corpse is a joke.  No way Boldin can be a #1 wide receiver anymore and he is the only one on the team that is even any good.  They could go all year without Crabtree and Manningham. 

WHO*IS*ESPN
WHO*IS*ESPN

OK, I'll give you my guy who sucks for your guy who sucks

209cat
209cat

Interesting....   i guess the 49ers wanted to get something in return for A.J.  cause rumor had it he was on the cut list.  guess they saw more out of Baldwin in their pre season game than out of AJ Jenkins.   

swidt
swidt

KC should have asked for 7th rounder in 2033 as well.

randomdeletion
randomdeletion

@username*1 His ego is out of control.  Let's see how he handles adversity.  He will see a lot of it this season with such a terrible receiving group.  The Niners are going to be fortunate in any game they manage to score over 20 points.  He will probably have a lot more turnovers and people will want Alex Smith the "game manager" who didn't turn it over, back.  Remember Josh Freeman had quick success, then defenses adjusted, he faced adversity and started to turn the ball over.  Same with Cam.  It happens to a lot of young QB's who have quick early success.

gary41
gary41

@Matthew Peake  Exactly.  KC had no QB's, so receivers were not fully evaluated or developed.  Baldwin might be worthless, but at least he will get evaluated.  I would be a lot more attentive to lower WR picks & UDFA's, as some are discovered every year.  UDFA Chuck Jacobs (Utah State) did a pretty good job in the last game.       

bobinpowell
bobinpowell

@randomdeletion LOL at "wide receiver corpse is a joke" although I'm not sure it was meant as a joke or if "corps" was misspelled.  

BEATINGU
BEATINGU

Ravens will win this trade? Referring to the boldin-6th round pick I'm guessing. The only way the ravens win this deal is if boldin has a career ending injury in week 5

DD
DD

That's the pick KC traded to SF in the offseason for Alex Smith. Would've been nice to get that one back!!!!!