Two notable NFC West absences from voluntary offseason workouts were reported just minutes apart on Monday.
One is a big deal.
The other is Deebo Samuel.
Samuel’s absence from the 49ers’ organized team activities was expected all along. And it was all but assured when he took his second-row seat Sunday night in Dallas for the Warriors’ victory over the Mavericks in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.
The 49ers appear determined to provide Samuel with fair compensation before he steps on the field again. He is currently scheduled to make $4 million in the final year of his contract. He can reasonably expect five-to-six times that amount after his All-Pro season in a receiver market that exploded this offseason.
Should the 49ers be concerned with Samuel’s decision to skip OTAs?
Let’s put it this way: The 49ers’ issues are nothing compared to what the Arizona Cardinals are going through with quarterback Kyler Murray, who is also planning on skipping the voluntary on-field work.
On Monday, ESPN reported Murray was not going to attend the Cardinals’ practice sessions. The NFL Network reported Samuel was going to sit out the 49ers’ offseason program. Both players had already sat out the first five weeks of organized conditioning.
The Cardinals got off to a hot start last season. But Arizona was reeling at the end of the season with five losses in their final six games.
Now, they’re dealing with an unhappy player at the most important position in sports.
If a quarterback, who is supposed to be the leader of the team, skips offseason workouts, that can have a big impact on the team. As important as Samuel is to the team, things can proceed as normal without him in Santa Clara.
One drawback for Samuel being away from the 49ers is they are not able to monitor his level of fitness, which has been an area of concern in the past.
Also, Samuel is missing out on the opportunity to gain chemistry with presumptive starting quarterback Trey Lance.
Lance and Samuel seemed to have a good rapport last season. Samuel caught six touchdown passes last season during the regular season. Three of those touchdowns came from Jimmy Garoppolo, who started 15 games. The other three came from Lance in 370 fewer pass attempts than Garoppolo.
Samuel is apparently unhappy with the lack of urgency of the 49ers to reward him with a suitable contract. He requested a trade this offseason. The 49ers were open to the idea of dealing Samuel for the right price leading up to the first round of the draft.
But there was never an offer that made general manager John Lynch seriously consider getting rid of the team’s best offensive player.
There appears to be little doubt Samuel will play for the 49ers this season. Now, it’s a matter of coming to terms on a contract that works for both sides.
Samuel’s only leverage is to remain off the practice field, and reduce the risk of injury, until he has long-term financial security.