All San Francisco 49ers fans heard from the start of minicamp and organized team activities (OTAs) was how well A.J. Jenkins was progressing and looking in practice. Yet, when it came time for him to show this improvement during live game action during the preseason, he has failed miserably and looked like he really didn’t to be a part of the 49ers 53-man roster come the start of the season.
Therefore, the 49ers trading Jenkins to the Kansas City Chiefs in return for wide receiver Johnathan Baldwin came as a surprise, but it is a move which was necessary to make. I personally would have never expected to see this move take place even though Jim Harbaugh stated on Sunday that contract and draft positioning aside, he was going to chose the best players for his 53-man roster. One big reason I doubted this move would have ever happened was because general managers don’t like to admit they missed on their first-round draft picks.
To the credit of 49ers general manager Trent Baalke, he was willing to swallow his pride and by trading Jenkins. He has admitted what many have stated: Jenkins was a bust with the 49ers. By trading Jenkins for Baldwin, another player who was drafted in the first round and who has been considered to be a disappointment so far now in his third NFL season, the 49ers at least give themselves salary cap relief and a chance to be able to strike gold with a player who has actually been somewhat productive as an NFL player.
By swapping Jenkins for Baldwin, the 49ers will still be on the hook for Baldwin’s 2013 salary, which is about $1.06 million, but won’t be hurt by Baldwin’s 2014 salary, which totals $1.2 million base salary with another $130,000 in workout bonuses since Bladwin’s 2014 salary is not guaranteed. Therefore, if Baldwin does not perform, they won’t have to keep him around, something that one could argue would have been the case with Jenkins because of his salary guarantees. Unlike Jenkins, Baldwin was at least someone to be able to give his respective team some in-game production. In his first two seasons, Baldwin has 41 receptions for 579 yards and two touchdowns.
Teams will not always hit on each of their draft picks, but when they miss on hitting with their first rounders, it is a tough pill to swallow and doing so can feel shameful. In the end, Baalke and the organization could no longer carry on a lie, and by trading Jenkins, they have admitted that he was a bust whom they could no longer keep on the roster.