We’re going to look at each positions departures prior to Week 1 of the 2017 season and see how they fared after leaving the 49ers. Some players went on to better careers, while others may be out of the league. We won’t be highlighting every transaction, just some notable ones. Today, we do the wide receivers
The 49ers wide receiver group was laughably bad in 2016, with the lack of a clear-cut number 1 pass-catcher. Chip Kelly, to his credit, did what he could with what he had though. Torrey Smith was the better known name, as was Jeremy Kerley, with the latter stepping up and having one of the best seasons of their career.
Once John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan came in, the WR corps was one of the most drained. Contracts were not extended and as training camp came, more of the well-known names were shown the door.
Smith was considered one of the splashier signings in the 2015 free agency period, signing a five-year $40 million contract. 2015 was his most productive season with the 49ers, with 33 catches for 663 yards but also his worst season as a pro.
In 2016, Smith had an awful season, playing in 12 games and recording 20 catches for 267 yards and three touchdowns. He was released the following March as a sort of favor by the organization so he had plenty of time to find a new team. In two days, he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles for a one-year $5 million contract. His 2017 numbers were a small step from his bottom of the barrel season in 2016; 33 receptions for 408 yards and two touchdowns.
The 49ers acquired Kerley in a trade with the New York Jets just before the start of the 2016 season. Kerley went on to have one of his best seasons with 64 receptions for 667 yards. The totals made him the best wide receiver on the roster and netted him a 3-year contract extension in the offseason. Unfortunately, the offseason progressed and Trent Taylor began making a strong pressence, as did UDFAs Kendrick Bourne and Victor Bolden. This made Kerley expendable.
After his release, Kerley returned to the Jets. He caught 22 passes for 217 yards and a touchdown. The low numbers were due to a season cut short due to a PED suspension which kept him out of action for four games. Upon his return, the Jets waived him.
The General as called around these parts, Patton was the hopeful diamond in the rough that showed some luster at times, but was left largely quiet. In 2016, he posted 37 receptions for 408 yards and zero touchdowns before getting placed on injured reserve late in the season. Being that it was a contract year, those aren’t numbers that are going to help you negotiate. He was notified that they would not be extending him and went to Twitter with the news.
Patton went on to sign with the New York Jets, but was placed on IR a short time later and released with an injury settlement. He never played a snap in 2017.
Bruce Ellington’s speed was something many thought would make him a force to be reckoned with in the league. Unfortunately, Ellington’s biggest issue was staying healthy. He missed the entire 2016 season due to a hamstring injury and when returning for 2017, was getting outplayed by Trent Taylor and Jeremy Kerley. If Ellington were to get injured again, his 2017 salary also became guaranteed.
Ellington was first claimed by the Jets, but failed a physical and was waived again. He later found new life with the Houston Texans. In 2017 he caught 29 passes for 330 yards and two touchdowns. He also only played 11 games.
He is yet to play a full 16 game season.
CFL-star Eric Rogers was considered a nice signing by the 49ers in 2016. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in training camp and sat out the entire season. The 49ers elected to release him when 2017 rolled around.
Those are the big names. Are there any wide receivers from 2016 you wish the 49ers could bring back?