How will the 49ers handle their wide receiver position moving forward?

Jason O. Watson

The 49ers finally got some playing time for Jon Baldwin in their win over the Rams. Will he be the primary short term answer opposite Anquan Boldin, or will the 49ers work the phones before the trade deadline? New to Niners Nation? Sign up here and join the discussion!

Over the last week, we heard news that the Cleveland Browns might try and trade wide receiver Josh Gordon. The new administration is basically dumping everything and starting over. They traded Trent Richardson, and it seems like only a matter of time before they unload Gordon.

Naturally, as soon as that information came out, 49ers fans were wondering if Trent Baalke would be on the phone. Gordon is incredibly talented, the 49ers have a wealth of draft picks, and the 49ers have had some issues at wide receiver. We had some discussion about this in the #Channel49 twitter mailbag, but I figured I'd pull it out separately.

Aside from Anquan Boldin, nobody has really stepped up, and now Quinton Patton is out for a stretch with a fractured foot. Patton had not contributed yet, but the team seemed prepared to provide him more opportunities. He was getting some early snaps against the Rams before suffering the foot fracture, and it seemed like he was climbing past Kyle Williams on the depth chart. After he went down, we got to see some of Jon Baldwin in his first action as a 49er. Baldwin had two catches for 19 yards on two targets.

On Friday, Harbaugh was asked about Baldwin and Patton. He naturally used it as a chance to discuss all the wide receivers, but he did say that there would be more action for Baldwin. The 49ers got Baldwin out for 16 snaps on Thursday. One has to imagine he climbs into at least the 20s moving forward.

For now, the 49ers have a couple options. They can make a move for a guy like Gordon, or they stick with what they have and just try and bide their time until Mario Manningham gets back. Manningham is eligible to come off the PUP list after the 49ers Week 6 home game against the Arizona Cardinals. If he were to come off right after that, he would be back 2 1/2 months after Kyle Williams returned from his ACL tear.

There are differences between the two. Williams suffered a torn ACL, while Manningham tore both his ACL and PCL a month later. Manningham will basically have an extra month and a half of recovery under his belt than Williams had when he started training camp. Of course, Williams subsequently strained his hamstring and sat out all four preseason games, so take those timelines with a bit of a grain of salt.

The 49ers could very well be content just waiting for Manningham to return, and potentially Michael Crabtree later in the season. Anquan Boldin and a healthy Vernon Davis, combined with their rushing attack are a good base from which to work. If Baldwin can provided even a little bit of something opposite that, I think the 49ers will be fine. I'll certainly be paying closer attention to Baldwin next week against the Houston Texans.

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