The 2015 wide receiver free agency class is incredibly talented, but it now features one less player. The The Green Bay Packers agreed to terms on a 4-year contract with Jordy Nelson, announcing the deal Saturday morning. Ian Rapoport is reporting the deal is worth $39 million, with a signing bonus of $11.5 million.
We don't know the exact details of how this breaks down, but as that comes along, I'd imagine Michael Crabtree's agent will be keeping an eye out. Crabtree is a free agent after this season, and Nelson's deal could be a factor in what he works out with the 49ers, or someone else in free agency. Crabtree came into the league a year after Nelson, but made a quicker impact. Nelson busted out in a big way in 2011, catching 68 passes for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns. He dealt with various hamstring issues in 2012, playing 12 games, and finishing with 49 receptions for 745 yards an 7 touchdowns. In 2013, he finished with 85 receptions for 1,314 yards and 8 touchdowns.
Crabtree's best season thus far came in 2012, when he had 85 receptions for 1,105 yards and 9 touchdowns. He suffered his Achilles tear the following offseason, and only played 5 regular season games and 3 playoff games in 2013. Of course, he had a big game in the wild card round, catching 8 receptions for 125 yards against the Packers. His total numbers have suffered to some extent due to the relatively conservative nature of the 49ers offense, but this was an interesting stat:
Receiving Yards per Route Run from 2011-2013: Michael Crabtree 2.269, Jordy Nelson 2.261. #49ers— Jeff Deeney (@PFF_Jeff) July 26, 2014
When the 2014 regular season starts, Crabtree will be a little over 15 months removed from his torn Achilles. Given how quickly he returned from his Achilles tear, it is not surprising he was a little slow out of the gates. However, we saw improvement as he spent more time on the field, and now he has had a full offseason to get even better. The 2014 season will feature even more weapons around him, but I still think we can expect a very productive season.
Trent Baalke indicated the team has been in touch with Crabtree's agent, but we have not heard much since. Given that Crabtree played a partial season last year, I imagine there is some value for both sides in seeing what Crabtree brings to the table early in 2014.
If the two sides do not get a deal done between now and next March, the wide receiver market will be an interesting one to track. There is a lot of talent scheduled to hit the market. If guys like Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant hit the market, they could very well secure the top end contracts. For the teams that miss out on those two, maybe they're then willing to out-bid the 49ers on Crabtree. While it is true that Crabtree is in a great spot with a developing young quarterback, and smart offensive minds, both sides have to want to get a deal done. It will depend in large part on how each side values the next deal. I would love to see Crabtree return, but it's hard to predict how this will play out for the moment.