We’re going to look at each unrestricted free agent this offseason and how every player is a piece of the Niners puzzle. Let’s start with WR Kendrick Bourne.
The San Francisco 49ers’ season is over. The majority of us believed the Niners would be preparing for their opponent in the Wild-card playoff round. Instead of looking back at what could have been, let’s look ahead to what will be one of the most important offseasons in recent memory for the 49ers.
We’re going to talk about each of the unrestricted free agents on the Niners roster and how signing or letting them walk will have a domino effect on other team decisions. For example, letting Trent Williams walk would open the door and allow San Francisco to sign two or three mid-level free agents, but you open a giant hole at left tackle and let one of the best players at his positions walk.
Let’s start with one of the most popular players on the team.
WR Kendrick Bourne
The 25-year-old had his best season to date and showed improvements from 2019. Bourne had career highs in receptions and receiving yards and first downs. Bourne also had his best season when the ball was in his hands. He played like a quality WR3. It’s evident that Bourne’s energy is infectious, and the players and coaches love him.
After Sunday’s game, Bourne said, “I for sure wanna be here. I love this organization. They’ve taken care of me. They brought me in when I was undrafted. I’ll always have a love for them. I wanna be back.”
I asked Bourne how the 49ers playoff roster and how close he is to his teammates will play a part in Bourne’s free agency decision:
“That’s a big part, man. My relationship with everybody here is definitely genuine and authentic. You never know what happens when you go to a different team. I might not fit in somewhere else. I fit in here. They accept me how I am. The personality, goofiness, everything about me they accept. They let me be myself, and that’s why I’m so successful here. I know next year this team is going to go really far. I can see it. It’s too clear to see.”
Bourne improving his game without being quarterback dependent says a lot. He’s always been a first down machine that didn’t change in 2020 as 75% of Bourne’s receptions resulted in a first down or a touchdown.
What is Bourne’s value? That’s the question the 49ers must ask. Now, his value isn’t limited to what happens on the field. There isn’t a practice that goes by where Bourne isn’t dancing and livening up the mood. What is that worth, though?
Heading into the 2021 season, The 49ers have Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and question marks. Richie James is still under contract, and there’s that George Kittle guy, but James was inconsistent in limited action, and Jalen Hurd hasn’t played a regular-season snap. Bringing Bourne back ensures you have a quality WR3 if Hurd cannot stay healthy.
Over the Cap’s valuation of Bourne’s 2020 season, he’s worth just north of $6 million per season. That comes out to about the 40th highest-paid receiver in the NFL. Corey Davis of the Titans made $6.3 million in 2020. He was also the Titans WR2 and had 984 yards receiving.
Knowing the 49ers are heading into the offseason somewhat handcuffed financially, do you bring back Bourne at $6 million? Letting Bourne walk and drafting a wideout in the later rounds could make sense, as would signing a lower-level free agent. You run the risk of them not being a cultural fit or producing.
San Francisco’s front office has their hands full, and the decision to re-sign Bourne isn’t going to move the needle like quarterback or left tackle, but Bourne is a piece of the puzzle. What would you do?