We've spent a lot of time talking about guys like left guard Mike Iupati, wide receiver Michael Crabtree and cornerback Perrish Cox. They're all free agents and the San Francisco 49ers are going to have a tough time retaining any of them, let alone all of them. But with a total of 15 guys hitting unrestricted free agency (and another four who are restricted or exclusive rights), there's plenty more to talk about.
So we've been covering a lot of those guys, and today I'm going to talk about one that hasn't garnered much discussion this offseason: Brandon Lloyd. I've said in the past that I am actually pretty happy to be wrong most of the time, because my pessimism usually means that things are going well when I'm proven wrong. I was among Lloyd's biggest critics and I was more than happy that he came out, won a roster spot and actually contributed this past season.
More than contributed, he did a whole lot of things that I didn't really expect of him. I think I was justified in my original pessimism given his recent history in the league, and he wasn't flawless by any means, but he soundly shut me up at times this season. That's not an easy thing to do, as I quite like the sound of my own voice.
Lloyd provided a big spark to the 49ers on more than one occasion last year, though in the end, he only caught 14 passes and I was personally not a fan of how he was used. Once it was apparent that he was still capable of catching a football, the 49ers only ran him on specific routes, and they were rarely effective. Maddeningly, Lloyd ran a whole lot of streak and deep out routes ... he was consistently used as the only deep threat on the 49ers.
He caught a couple of those big passes, but that was it. I couldn't figure out why he was being used that way, but it ultimately led to his season being a disappointment. It's worth noting that the 49ers didn't often throw his way when he was running those routes, which you can't blame Lloyd for, but it was certainly an odd situation. Now, what he's going to do next season is up in the air. Lloyd retired at one point, declining offers from multiple teams before signing with the 49ers last season. I'm not sure where he goes from here.
Why he will return
I could see Lloyd returning for the fact that the 49ers might want a veteran presence, and it's a paycheck. I don't know if Lloyd is hurting for money, but he played under a basic one year, $1 million contract this past season. Crabtree is probably out the door and with guys like Anquan Boldin, Stevie Johnson and Bruce Ellington the next men up, there's still room for Lloyd to take some snaps.
Why he will depart
If the 49ers decide that they're fine with Johnson's contract, then I could see Lloyd either calling it a career or looking for one more place to play before doing so. On top of that, if the 49ers feel good about drafting a rookie receiver early, then there's probably not much room for Lloyd. Boldin effectively fills that "veteran tutor" role all while being an effective receiver on top of that.
Odds of returning
We'll go with something that implies it's not totally impossible for him to return -- there are scenarios in which he's back and they're not hard to reach -- but that it's still unlikely. We'll say something like a 15 percent chance of returning. Ultimately, I feel like Lloyd won't sign with a new team this offseason, but that, if he is interested, will be the first guy the 49ers call in the event of injury. He might even be around for training camp.