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  • Nathan Rogers

An Underrated and Fitting Free Agent the 49ers Should Add

Updated: Mar 9, 2021

The 49ers have one of the most versatile rosters in the NFL. It seems like the designation "versatile" is attached to virtually every facet of Lynch and Shanahan's regime — rightfully so — but the 49ers receiving core could use a new spark.


The Situation

Don't get me wrong, Deebo and Aiyuk are one-in-a-generation talents and two major pillars of Shanahan's offense. Nevertheless, shadowed by the limelight of Deebo's jet sweeps and broken tackles, as well as Aiyuk's stunning route-running highlights, the rest of the receiving group is left in the dust. Kendrick Bourne has always been that reliable, serviceable WR3 on the depth chart. Though he did have some costly penalties in Week 14's game against the Washington Football Team, he's never missed a game due to injury in his Niner tenure, has achieved 1,769 receiving yards, dropped only 13 passes since 2017, and racked up a jarring 99 first downs in his career. He's as reliable as they get, folks.

Kendrick Bourne is a quality player; one Kyle Shanahan has trusted since the get-go (April 30, 2017 in Undrafted Free Agency). He's also relatively cheap. He signed a 1-year $3.2 million deal prior to 2020's season. He's most likely due for around the $4 million range. For a player as durable and available as Bourne has been, Lynch and Shanahan should be licking their chops at that price.

Now, on to the bad. I know, it must be said.

The talent and production is unquestionably great in Santa Clara (or in Arizona last year, sorry). However, health and availability

have always been big questions.

Although Deebo is one of my favorite players on the team, it seems like he injures his hamstring every time the sun rises. He's arguably the second-best offensive player when on the field, but has suffered significant injuries in his football career; dating back to his early days with the Gamecocks in South Carolina.

Per SportsInjuryPredictor, here is Deebo Samuel's concerning injury history:

He also has a 74% chance to get re-injured in the next NFL season. Yikes.

Along with Deebo, the 49ers have invested a lot of their allocations into players who have basically being A-WALL in their respective 49er tenures.

Trent Taylor, the predicted starting slot receiver, has started 2 games in the last 3 years with a career receiving rating of 68.7, per SIS Data Hub.

Jalen Hurd, the highly-sought-after third-round pick out of Baylor, has managed to fracture his back and tear his ACL. He's missed 33 games since 2017.

Juan Jennings, after being drafted in 2020, has failed to see the field thus far.

Richie James Jr. has averaged 12 catches a year.

The point I'm attempting to illustrate is that, other than Aiyuk — who's only played one season so far — Kendrick Bourne is the only reliable receiver in the 49ers locker room (Covid-19 permitting).

It's time to change that.


Curtis Samuel

If you haven't heard of Curtis Samuel, now you have.

The second-round pick out of Ohio State in 2017, who is currently a Free Agent on the Carolina Panthers, couldn't be closer to a deebo-esc resemblance.

Is it a coincidence they both have the same last name?

I'm 100% surprised Shanahan didn't shove all his chips into the middle of the table for this guy in April of 2017, but hopefully the 49ers front office feels the same way I do about Curtis Samuel now: he's a must-target free-agent wide receiver.

Considering the consistent absence in the 49ers wide receiver group, Curtis Samuel needs to be on this team come next season.

The Panthers, led by offensive coordinator Joe Brady, use Curtis Samuel very similarly to how the 49ers utilize Deebo. They both routinely take snaps in the backfield, are at their best after the catch, burn DB's deep, and specialize in outside-zone, jet-sweep calls. It's actually remarkable how similar they are. Curtis Samuel can play almost every receiving position with excellence. As a ball carrier, he acts like an elusive, swift running back. When he runs routes — whether it be the X or Z receiving position — he runs routes with stellar athleticism and technique. Do those traits ring a bell?

When asked in August of 2020 about his versatility, the former Buckeye said:

“I’m not really going to get into the details and spoil it [or] give people hints as to what’s to come, but with my skillset, I have the ability to do so much outside, inside, and play running back,” Samuel told Panthers reporters. “I’ve had a lot of experience playing different places in my career – that definitely gives me the flexibility to do more” (via The Riot Report).

Here are two important clips of both players taking snaps from the backfield. Their similarly phenomenal abilities after the carry are apparent.

(via @Nate_Tice on Twitter)

Not only does Curtis Samuel impress on tape, but also on the stat sheet:

Obviously, Curtis Samuel has had more reps therefore being able to produce greater statistics in some areas. But, that also shows an advantage Curtis would bring other than great, versatile play: health.

He's only missed 6 games since entering the league in 2017.

He also has a durability ranking of 4/5, significantly greater than Deebo's 1/5, per Sports Injury Predictor.

Considering the shared play styles between Curtis and Deebo, Curtis would provide greatly needed insurance to the 49ers. We all saw what the 49ers looked like without Deebo. Jimmy G looked like a mess.

Since Deebo entered the NFL with the 49ers, they have been 14-4 when he plays. They're 4-7 when he doesn't play.

In order to fill this void, Curtis Samuel would be the perfect piece to the puzzle.

Aiyuk, Deebo, Curtis Samuel all on the same field together would be borderline lethal.

And, if Deebo follows his track record and misses a few games, Curtis Samuel can fill that job like no other.


It seems like every position group and player on the 49ers has the ability to be versatile, but the receiving core needs a boost in that category.

Sure, there are more important needs on the team than shopping for another receiver, but I think when it comes to a player as fitting to Shanahan's offense as Curtis Samuel is, the 49ers should start making some calls over to Charlotte, North Carolina.

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