Each year, we run a series of posts called “90-in-90” here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we’ll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, the roster will change, and some days we’ll have more than one so it’s not strictly one per day but you get the idea.
Of the players on the 49ers roster who became free agents in March, the brass decided to only retain two of 22. Jeremy Kerley was one of the two players. Undoubtedly, a major factor for the Niners to sign Kerley to a three-year deal was the fact he led the team in receptions (64) and receiving (667) last season.
Additionally, according to Matt Barrows, Kerley received a boost from Joe Staley before the free-agency period began. And, Staley pretty much confirmed this fact with a tweet indicating Kerley was “a great teammate and ... a big reason we turn the team around!!”
Kerley’s energetic attitude and on-field effort seemed to really make the difference with the new regime. Like last year, reports have indicated Kerley mainly is lining up in the slot. Although wide receivers coach, Mike LaFleur, has stated that all of the receivers must know various positions depending on the play call.
Age: 28 (29 on November 8)
Experience: 6 accrued seasons
Weight: 188 lbs
49ers signed Kerley to a three-year deal worth $8.4 million, with $2.8 million fully guaranteed at signing. The fully guaranteed money includes a $1.7 million signing bonus, and $1.1 million of his 2017 base salary. He has an additional $700,000 of his 2018 base salary guaranteed for injury now, and fully for that amount on April 1, 2018.
Kerley also has a $250,000 roster bonus (paid out over 16 weeks) and $50,000 workout bonus each year. This breakdown is courtesy of Over the Cap.
Why he might improve in 2017
This offseason, additional wide receivers Pierre Garçon and Marquise Goodwin have been added to the 49ers roster. Those potential targets could take the pressure off the slot-like routes for Kerley.
It should also be noted that Kerley’s team-leading numbers were not exactly spectacular, but his plays usually provided momentum or resulted in key downs. At times last year, Kerley was seemingly the only option for the 49ers offense. Adding some more weapons will hopefully provide quarterback Brian Hoyer targets in the short and intermediate range.
Garçon is widely viewed as the 49ers number one receiver. Opponents will likely put more pressure on him and be on look to slow down Goodwin’s speed by disrupting his route with press coverage. Kerley could then see his numbers in the slot increase.
Why he might regress in 2017
Kerley made significant contributions last season, but he did it on a very bad offense. It could be argued Kerley’s best season came in 2012, when Mark Sanchez had almost no one else to throw to.
Kerley’s numbers as a whole have been less than mediocre, averaging 482 yards per season. And, with additions at wide receiver, Kyle Shanahan may find other options including rookie slot receiver Trent Taylor. Taylor will be competing for time, but it appears Shanahan does value the veteran’s presence and LaFleur has called Kerley “a real pro”, showing they are not necessarily worried about the numbers aspect of his game.
Odds of making the roster
Kerley is one of the few free agents brought back from an abysmal 2-14 season, a year in which the 49ers finished last in the league in receiving yards. Based on his positive attitude in the locker room and on-field efforts, it is likely Kerley will remain on the roster.