The San Francisco 49ers will release wide receiver Stevie Johnson, according to Dianna Marie Russini of NBC4. This has been "the plan for awhile," according to Russini. Johnson's status with the team has been up in the air for a couple weeks now, as there were conflicting reports on whether or not he'd been released near the end of February.
At the time, it was reported that Johnson would be released, there was some weirdness with Instagram (as usual) and then there was talk that the 49ers were simply trying to get Johnson to agree to a restructured contract/take a paycut. At this point, I'm not sure if Johnson simply wasn't having any of that, or if the 49ers were waiting to see if they could entice someone in free agency before releasing him.
That someone could be Baltimore Ravens free agent Torrey Smith. He's already confirmed that he's leaving the Ravens, and a Sunday report called Smith to the 49ers essentially a "done deal." I don't know if any of the weirdness that has come out in the last 24 hours changes any of that but at this point, nothing has changed as far as I can tell.
Smith obviously has a lot more to offer than Johnson and will, accordingly, cost more. Johnson would be the third receiver behind Smith and Anquan Boldin, and his salary -- $5.5 million in 2015 -- is prohibitive at that point. Then again, the 49ers might not have a deal done with Smith at all and still feel strongly about Johnson's contract.
Many have speculated that the 49ers will spend a first-round pick on a wide receiver when the NFL Draft comes along. If they did that, smart money is on the team wanting to get him plenty of playing time, so Johnson would be the No. 3 receiver in that scenario as well.
Whatever the case, though this isn't yet official, it's hard to imagine Johnson playing for the 49ers next season. He's got a roster bonus a few days into the new league year so the 49ers don't have long to make the move. The above report suggests that Johnson would be signed by another team quickly and that also makes sense -- he clearly has enough left in the tank to earn playing time somewhere in the league.