Wednesday’s Ryan Ramczyk extension notwithstanding, June 30 is not typically a hotbed of NFL activity. But, amid a notable period for the 49ers’ wide receiving corps, one of the better No. 2 wideouts in NFL history inked his final contract on this day 26 years ago.
On June 30, 1995, the 49ers brought back John Taylor. The 49ers previously released Taylor — a move that helped them sign first-round receiver J.J. Stokes — but reached an agreement to re-sign Jerry Rice‘s longtime sidekick two days later. Taylor signed a two-year deal to stay in San Francisco. The then-33-year-old receiver agreed to an incentive-laden pact that included a $300K 1995 salary and a $1.3MM payout in 1996.
Taylor arrived in San Francisco as a third-round pick in 1986, when Dwight Clark was winding down his career alongside Rice. As Rice made his historic ascent, Taylor — a 1980s All-Decade punt returner — became a full-time starter as well. Although he is best known for making a game-winning touchdown reception in the final minute of Super Bowl XXIII, Taylor was not a primary starter during that 1988 season. The Delaware State alum became a first-stringer a year later, when he compiled a 1,000-yard season for a 49ers team that repeated as Super Bowl champs, and remained in this role through the 1994 season — when the 49ers won Super Bowl XXIX. San Francisco changed up its receiver equation in 1995, however.
The 49ers had re-signed Taylor in 1992, after the second of his two 1,000-yard seasons, but saw him dip under 600 receiving yards in 1994. The franchise then traded up 20 spots in the ’95 draft to select Stokes 10th overall. Taylor still started 12 games in 1995 but caught just 29 passes for 387 yards in first-year OC Marc Trestman‘s offense. Stokes outproduced that total as a rookie, though Rice’s then-NFL-record 1,848 yards overshadowed everything else about San Francisco’s offense that season.
The 49ers cut bait on the Taylor contract in 1996, and the Division I-AA success story opted to retire. San Francisco’s post-Taylor plan became complicated after a 1996 Stokes injury. Terrell Owens (Round 3, 1996) seized Taylor’s former gig as Rice’s top wingman; the two played five seasons together. T.O. had a rather notable career in the years that followed as well. Taylor remains in the top 10 in career catches, yards and touchdown receptions in 49ers history.