The 49ers were seen as the favorites to land Antonio Brown for the first couple months of the offseason.
The buzz came from Jerry Rice, who publicly supported the idea of his former team acquiring the seven-time Pro Bowl receiver. Tight end George Kittle helped create a little more intrigue when he reached out to Brown on social media after, he said, Jimmy Garoppolo dared him.
And Santa Clara appeared to be the preferred destination for Brown, who appeared in a photo-shopped 49ers uniform on his social media account.
All the while, the 49ers' decision-makers remained silent. General manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan did their homework behind the scenes and never showed any interest in engaging in trade talks with the Pittsburgh Steelers. When it came to one of the game's best pass-catchers, the 49ers took a hard pass.
The Raiders acquired Brown on Saturday night in exchange for a third-round and a fifth-round draft pick. They also reportedly re-worked Brown’s contract to pay out more than $30 million in guaranteed money, as part of a three-year $50 million deal.
Brown, who turns 31 in July, has been ultra-consistent and productive on the field, catching at least 101 passes for 1,284 yards in each of the past six seasons. But the 49ers clearly saw everything else that comes with Brown as being too risky for an organization at this stage of its building process.
That is not to say the 49ers are set at wide receiver. In fact, they remain interested in adding another playmaker in the passing game.
The free-agent market is light. But there are indications that if the New York Giants become receptive to trading Odell Beckham Jr. this offseason, the 49ers would be interested in discussions.
Beckham is four years younger than Brown. He's also believed to be a more compatible fit in the locker room.
Shanahan has spoken to the importance of adding high-character veteran players who put the team first, have passion for the game and are reliable in the meeting room and practice field. The 49ers likely concluded that Brown falls short in those areas. Without speaking specifically about Brown, Shanahan recently addressed this topic at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
“You take it into account with everything,” Shanahan said. “That’s why you like to deal with people you know and have an idea on. We try to hold everyone accountable on our team. We’re pretty consistent with that.
“So if someone isn’t like that, yeah, we do have a problem with that. I don’t think anyone is good enough to deal with that.”
Shanahan is a stickler for precise, disciplined route-running and attention to detail. He also believes veteran players who come in from the outside have the ability to set the tone for the entire locker room.
“I do not mind overpaying for character -- guys who are going to come in and work, who compete on the practice field, who can handle being coached, who aren’t coming in extremely sensitive and not putting themselves above anyone else,” Shanahan said after his first season as 49ers coach. “If you bring in an entitled guy, it hurts your team.”