KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Kansas City Chiefs traded wide receiver Jon Baldwin to the San Francisco 49ers for wide receiver A.J. Jenkins Monday in a swap of disappointing first-round picks.
Baldwin was the 26th overall choice of the Chiefs in 2011, but he’s had a tumultuous career right from the start. Baldwin broke his thumb his rookie season when he got into a fight with a teammate, and then struggled to adapt to three head coaches in his first three seasons.
He’s also had trouble dropping passes throughout training camp under new Chiefs coach Andy Reid, including one when he was wide open in last Friday night’s preseason loss to San Francisco.
That drop alone apparently was not enough to dissuade the 49ers from making the deal.
“We are pleased to add Jonathan to our team and look forward to incorporating him into our offense,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. “Both players have been presented a great opportunity for a new beginning with their respective teams.”
Jenkins was the 30th overall pick of the 49ers last year, but may have had a more perplexing rookie season than Baldwin. He appeared in three games but did not make a catch, even though he was healthy throughout his team’s NFC championship season.
It’s the second significant deal between the Chiefs and 49ers this year. Kansas City acquired quarterback Alex Smith from San Francisco for a pair of draft picks during the offseason.
“We felt like this trade was beneficial for all parties involved,” said Chiefs general manager John Dorsey, who was hired to replace the fired Scott Pioli in January.
Dorsey and Reid clearly weren’t enamored of Baldwin after breaking down video shortly upon their arrival. One of their major acquisitions in free agency was Donnie Avery, a wide receiver who was expected to compete with Baldwin for the job opposite Dwayne Bowe.
Baldwin didn’t do much to change the Chiefs’ opinion of him this offseason, either.
Even though the Chiefs are desperate to give Smith some downfield options, Baldwin never seized upon the opportunity. He routinely dropped balls throughout training camp, and Reid and offensive coordinator Doug Pederson had seemingly grown accustomed to defending him.
“You don’t know what you will get out of him,” Pederson said Sunday. “If he’s down from drops or mental errors or whatever it is, you just work yourself out of it. You continue to press on. We always talk about short term memory. You have to have it in this business and move on.”
Otherwise, your team eventually will move on, as Kansas City did Monday.
The 49ers are hopeful that Baldwin can flourish without having to deal with the pressure he had on him in Kansas City. Even though Michael Crabtree is out with a torn Achilles tendon, they still have Anquan Boldin, Kyle Williams, Mario Manningham when healthy, and tight end Vernon Davis to carry most of the load in their passing game.
Still, that wasn’t enough to help Jenkins reach his potential with San Francisco, and after another rough preseason showing against the Chiefs last Friday night, there were questions whether the former Illinois star would even make the team.
He was targeted twice in the game, but failed to catch either pass. He only had one reception in the 49ers’ preseason opener against Denver, but also lost a fumble.
“A.J. is a talented individual with a skillset that we feel can add value to our football team,” Dorsey said. “Jon Baldwin is a hardworking player and a professional. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward.”