San Francisco has three wideouts who could hit the market in the offseason.
One position the San Francisco 49ers feel good about going into the 2021 NFL season is wide receiver.
The Niners look to have their top two wideouts in place for years to come. The team took Deebo Samuel in the second of the 2019 NFL Draft and followed that up by selecting Brandon Aiyuk 25th overall last year.
Both players had an immediate impact upon making the jump to the pros. Here are their numbers from their rookie seasons:
Samuel: 57 receptions, 802 yards, three touchdowns, 14 rushes for 159 yards and three scores.
Aiyuk: 60 receptions, 748 yards, five touchdowns, six rushes for 77 yards and two scores.
Deebo couldn’t stay on the field during his sophomore season. He suffered a Jones fracture during the 2020 offseason, which kept him out for the first three games. Samuel returned for four games before missing some more time because of a hamstring issue and also due to the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols.
He then returned for two games before re-injuring his hamstring just one play into the Niners’ Week 14 loss to the Washington Football Team. Samuel finished the seasons with 33 receptions for 391 yards and a touchdown in seven games.
Both receivers are YAC monsters but have different styles. Samuel is built like an ox and runs through defenders with the ball in his hands. Aiyuk uses his agility and athleticism to get open and is smooth with his movement.
There’s no doubt Samuel and Aiyuk will be at the top of the depth chart if both are healthy, but it will be interesting to see which other receivers will be on the roster in 2021.
Richie James Jr. is under contract for 2021 but hasn’t shown the consistency you would want from your third option. He had a standout performance in Week 9 loss to the Green Bay Packers, finishing the contest with nine catches for 184 yards and a touchdown.
James has been with the team since 2018 but has mainly been used as a returner. He finished the 2020 season with a career-high in receptions (23) and yards (394).
Head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will have to decide what to do with Kendrick Bourne. The 26-year-old is due to become an unrestricted free agent and has been inconsistent over his four years with San Francisco.
Over the Cap values Bourne at $6 million on the open market, which is more than likely out of the 49ers’ budget.
Another veteran the Niners can lose is Trent Taylor. The veteran hasn’t been the same since suffering a Jones Fracture that resulted in him getting five surgeries to correct the issue. Taylor struggled to get open in the slot and finished the 2020 campaign with just 10 receptions for 86 yards while playing 18% of the offense’s total snap counts.
Depth piece River Cracraft was thrust into action due to all of the injuries and have seven catches for 85 yards. He was mainly used in a special teams role. The team will also see how Jauan Jennings develops going into his second year.
Shanahan had high hopes for 2019 third-round selection Jalen Hurd, who unfortunately hasn’t played a regular season down since joining the team. Hurd hurt his back during the 2019 preseason, which caused him to miss his entire rookie campaign. He looked great at last year’s training camp but wound up tearing his ACL.
Depending on what happens with veteran left tackle, San Francisco won’t have too much to spend during free agency. As of now, Over the Cap projects the 49ers to have roughly $22 million in cap space, that’s with up to 40 players who could hit the open market in the offseason.
Since Samuel and Aiyuk are on the roster, don’t expect the Niners to take a receiver with one of their early draft picks, but the team does need depth at the position.
Several options should be available in free agency. Players like Allen Robinson, Marvin Jones, Corey Davis and T.Y. Hilton will probably be out of the 49ers’ price range, but other veterans could sign a cheap one-year deal.
Here are some of the wideouts who are slated to become unrestricted free agents:
A.J. Green, Sammy Watkins, Breshad Perriman, Willie Snead, Keelan Cole, Chris Connelly, Danny Amendola.
With the NFL’s salary cap expected to be around $180 million, veteran receivers might sign for less than market value due to the cap constraints.
Green has spent his entire nine-year career with the Cincinnati Bengals and could join a contender this offseason. He played in all 16 games and finished with 47 receptions for 523 yards and two touchdowns.
San Francisco needs to add a slot receiver, so Snead or Amendola could be fits.
Even at 35 years old, Amendola was productive for the Miami Dolphins in 2020. The veteran played in 14 games and had 46 catches for 602 yards.
The 49ers could offer Bourne a new deal, gives James a shot or hope that Hurd doesn’t show a lot of rust after missing back-to-back years. If they don’t feel like they have the answer already in-house, Shanahan and Lynch could undoubtedly explore the free-agent route.
Which veteran receivers would you want the Niners to target? If they don’t, who do you think will be the team’s third receiver next season?