49ers roster analysis: More receiver depth needed around Deebo Samuel


This is the third installment of a nine-part series that examines the 49ers’ roster coming out of the 2019 season, looks ahead to 2020, and outlines the offseason challenges facing general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan on a position-by-position basis.

Wednesday, a look at the 49ers’ wide receivers.

Under contract (signed through)

Deebo Samuel (2022)
Richie James (2021)
Dante Pettis (2021)
Trent Taylor (2020)
Jalen Hurd (2022)
Marquise Goodwin (2021)
Chris Thompson (2021)
Shawn Poindexter (2021)

As the 49ers look for ways to tighten up their cap situation, they likely will get out from under Goodwin’s contract, which is scheduled to pay him $4.5 million in salary and bonuses this season. Goodwin was placed on season-ending injured reserve in December.

Expiring contracts

Emmanuel Sanders (UFA)
Kendrick Bourne (RFA)
Jordan Matthews (UFA)

Sanders’ most recent contract paid him on average $11 million annually. OverTheCap.com has Sanders valued at $10 million for his next contract. That might be a bit steep for the 49ers, who would stand to gain a compensatory draft pick in 2021, if Sanders leaves for a sizable contract.

In 13 games with the 49ers, including the postseason, Sanders caught 41 passes for 573 yards and three TDs.

Bourne is a priority to bring back. He is scheduled to be a restricted free agent. If the 49ers are unable to sign him to a multi-year contract, the club will have a decision to make.

If they place an original-round tender of $2.1 million on Bourne, the 49ers would receive no compensation if another team signs him to an offer sheet and they decline to match. But if they raise the tender to a second-round level of approximately $3.3 million, they would be assured of keeping him or getting a second-round draft pick in return.

What needs to happen

Toward the end of the season, the 49ers clearly did not have a lot of trust in their depth at wide receiver. Samuel, Sanders and Bourne were the team’s top three wideouts. After that, they got zero production.

Pettis went three full months without catching a pass. He was inactive for Super Bowl LIV. Pettis finished his rookie season on a high note and looked good during the offseason program a year ago. His decline upon reporting to training camp was dramatic. He still has a chance to work his way back as a contributor, but it will take a major commitment on his part.

James generally did a good job as a return man, but he did not see much action on offense.

Taylor and Hurd were expected to be key players on offense last season, but neither played a snap during the regular season due to injuries that landed both on injured reserve. Taylor underwent five surgeries after sustaining a Jones fracture in his foot. Hurd never got back after a stress reaction in his back.

The 49ers must make a decision on how to approach contract talks with Sanders, who enjoyed his time with the club after arriving in a midseason trade from Denver. Bourne should be back. So the 49ers will have to decide if they’re comfortable with a depth chart that includes Samuel, Bourne, Pettis, Taylor, Hurd and James.

This is being hailed as a great draft for wide receivers, so the 49ers could look to add another young player. If they hold onto the No. 31 overall pick, the 49ers could look at receiver. Or a better strategy would be to trade back, acquire multiple picks on the second day of the draft, and add a promising young player at that point.

[RELATED: 49ers roster analysis: Running backs combine to make formidable group]


The 49ers were not expecting Samuel to play as much as a rookie. They had no other choice but to keep him on the field. It was a learning process, and he made a lot of mistakes. But Samuel got better and better, and now he is being counted upon to take his game to a higher level in Year 2 as the team's top wide receiver.

Bourne is capable of being a starter. He just needs to show more consistency. If Taylor is healthy, he could end up as the 49ers’ leading pass-catcher. The 49ers did not have a true slot receiver who could get open quickly for Jimmy Garoppolo on third downs. Taylor is that player.

Hurd has the kind of versatility that excites coach Kyle Shanahan because of the strain he can put on defenses -- especially in no-huddle situations at the end of halves. Hurd can line up outside, in the slot, at tight end or in the backfield. Shanahan is good at dictating matchups, and Hurd will be valuable in helping the 49ers expose the weak link of defenses.

Pettis’ best attribute is his ability to run choice routes, in which he can set up a defender and break off his pattern to create maximum separation from the defender. Pettis has to better his durability and be willing to take those routes into traffic over the middle.

Whether it’s in the draft or free agency, the 49ers also would like to add a bigger wide receiver who can stretch the field and provide a target for Garoppolo in the red zone, too.

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