While we’ve spent the majority of our time talking about San Francisco’s big name unrestricted free agents like Arik Armstead, Emmanuel Sanders, and Jimmie Ward, the decision the 49ers have to make on their restricted free agents will be critical as well. Running back Matt Breida is one, and his falling out of favor toward the end of the year could signal the end of his days with the Niners.
Another key restricted free agent is wide receiver Kendrick Bourne, who is one of the most efficient wideouts in the NFL. On 53 targets this past season, Bourne caught 36 passes. Six of those went for touchdowns, while 28 went for first downs. When Bourne touched the ball, he moved the chains. Some fans are still mad at the drop in Week 10 and will point to that as a reason Bourne isn’t a legitimate option. Bourne finished the season with four total drops.
Finding the right tender to place on Bourne will tell us a lot. I don’t think there’s any doubt the team wants him back. There’’s no doubt, Bourne, as Kyle Shanahan in his corner. Shanahan said at the NFL Combine that Bourne took a huge step forward around midseason, and that’s why the receiver rotation went down to three. It was Sanders, Deebo Samuel, and Bourne. The over/under of minutes you’ll see Bourne dancing at practice or games is set at two. That type of energy rubs off on others. Players were loose, confident, and Bourne’s energy is a big reason why.
NBC Sport’s Matt Maiocco wrote about the same subject, and this was his “bottom line on Bourne:
The 49ers will certainly tender Bourne once there is more clarity on the league’s collective bargaining agreement. But at what level?
With the second-round tender of $3.278 million, the 49ers do not run the risk of losing Bourne and receiving nothing in return. They cannot take that chance.
At the same time, the 49ers should look to sign Bourne to a multi-year contract this offseason that puts some sizable guaranteed money in his pocket now while being a reasonable deal for the team over the long term.
A long-term deal makes sense. A second-round tender ensures you keep Bourne on the roster. Knowing that you don’t have more than two wide receivers under contract over the next few seasons, bringing back a familiar face like Bourne, who is the epitome of the culture you’re building.