We learned earlier today that 49ers star Aldon Smith could return from suspension as early as Monday, giving San Francisco a pass-rushing element that’s been sorely missing from its defense. Additionally, defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey, linebacker NaVorro Bownman, and running back Marcus Lattimore, all of whom are dealing with injuries, could return to practice, and subsequently, the active roster, soon. Roster space will be at a premium in the Bay Area in the near future, and as such, the Niners could look to make a deal in advance of Tuesday’s trade deadline in order to clear at least one roster spot. Second-year linebacker Corey Lemonier is the most likely candidate to be traded, a team source tells Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.
Lemonier, 22, was selected in the third round of last year’s draft out of Auburn. He was active for all 16 games in 2013, registering 276 snaps on defense and playing on nearly 40% of the 49ers’ special teams plays. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) shows Lemonier to be something of a pass-rushing specialist, as he received a +3.9 grade when getting after the quarterback. This season, Lemonier has once again been active for every game, but despite the absences of Smith and Bowman, his defensive snap percentage has not increased. He is garnering more special teams duty, however, as he’s been involved on more than 50% of ST snaps.
Financials shouldn’t be an obstacle if the Niners do trade Lemonier. His modest bonus money, which amounts to less than $500K, would accelerate onto San Francisco’s cap, while an acquiring team would only be responsible for his base salaries, which would total less than $2MM over the next two-and-a-half years. As far as a return, the 49ers would surely be happy to recoup the third-rounder they spent on Lemonier in last year’s draft. That’s unlikely to happen, however, and I would think that the club would be content to get something in the neighborhood of a fifth-round pick for Lemonier.
Lemonier obviously has talent, so San Francisco wouldn’t be giving up on him by trading him; rather, the team simply has enough depth on the defensive side of the ball that even a promising second-year player like Lemonier is expendable. As Maiocco notes, the 49ers would obviously rather get any amount of draft pick compensation for the linebacker than be forced to simply waive him. Additionally, Maicco adds that the club is also extremely deep along the defensive, so a trade involving an end or tackle could also be in the works.