After not selecting a wide receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft, the 49ers might need to take another look at the veteran free agents available.
While Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk will get the lion’s share of the snaps, the 2020 season proved the 49ers need more depth at the position. Currently, the Niners have 12 receivers on the roster. But outside of Richie James Jr., several are unknown quantities in coach Kyle Shanahan's scheme.
The 49ers currently have the following receivers on their roster:
- Brandon Aiyuk
- Deebo Samuel
- Richie James Jr.
- Jalen Hurd
- Jauan Jennings
- Mohamed Sanu
- Kevin White
- Travis Benjamin
- River Cracraft
- Trent Sherfield
- Austin Proehl
- Matt Cole
The 49ers lack salary cap space, so their options could be limited. Like several of the defensive players who re-signed with the team on one-year deals, a savvy veteran receiver could see a unique opportunity in Santa Clara.
Here are six free-agent receivers who could be options for the 49ers if the price is right.
Age: 32 Accrued seasons: 11
Tate could provide veteran leadership and increase the entire group's productivity, much like Emmanuel Sanders did midway through the 2019 season. While Tate hasn't been as productive since leaving the Detroit Lions in 2018, he'd still be valuable for the 49ers.
Tate predominantly lined up in the slot over the past two seasons with the New York Giants, which could be very attractive to Shanahan and the 49ers' coaching staff. During that time, he caught 84 of his 137 targets (12.7 yards per reception) and eight touchdowns.
Age 29 Accrued seasons: 5
Lee's still looking for a new home. He signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots last year after playing five seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but he opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. The Patriots released him in March.
Lee has lined up predominantly out wide but he also has played in the slot. He has only played six regular-season games since tearing the ACL, MCL and PCL in his left knee during the 2018 preseason, but he'd provide leadership and experience to the 49ers' young wide receivers room.
Age: 37 Accrued seasons: 17
Over his lengthy career, Fitzgerald has done it all. He has made 11 Pro Bowls and earned a First Team All-Pro nod in 2008.
The probable Pro Football Hall of Famer is past his prime, but his knowledge and leadership would be a valuable addition to the roster.
Age 31 Accrued seasons: 9
Jeffery offers value if the 49ers can get him at the right price. The veteran wide receiver has only played in 30 games over the last three seasons, but he would be a reliable target and route runner while providing experience and leadership.
Age: 31 Accrued seasons: 8
Austin only has 384 receiving yards over the last four years, but he does offer some special-teams value. The 49ers released Austin from the practice squad with an injury settlement last October, and he managed just five receptions in four games with the Green Bay Packers afterward. Still, Austin could be a rotation option.
Age: 28 Accrued seasons: 6
Thomas had 148 combined receiving yards with Kansas City and the Baltimore Ravens in 2019, but the former Oregon Duck opted out of last season. The speedster could provide some depth as a receiver and returner.