The San Francisco 49ers suffered a ridiculous amount of injuries last season. The team set a record for the most salary on injured reserve and had several key players miss time throughout the year.
One position that was affected by the rash of injuries was wide receiver. Both of the Niners’ top-two receivers — Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk — played in the season-opening loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The pair only took the field together for six games in 2020.
Because of that, San Francisco had to go deep down the depth chart. River Cracraft, Kevin White and Jordan Matthews were all thrust into the lineup at different points.
The 49ers had signed a veteran option last offseason when they inked Travis Benjamin to a one-year deal worth $1.075 million, per Spotrac. But the 31-year-old opted out of playing due to the COVID-19 scare.
Benjamin talked about his decision with Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle.
“I’ve been at peace with it,” Benjamin said. “But there were times on certain Sundays where I’d see somebody make a play and I’d be kind of antsy about it. In the back of your mind, ‘Oh, that could have been me. If I would have played, I would have made that play. If I would have played, I would have blocked for this guy. If I would have played, I would have been in a situation where I could have made the team better.’”
Benjamin has 208 receptions for 3,143 yards and 19 touchdowns over his eight seasons in the league. The speedy receiver averages 15.1 yards per reception. Benjamin last played for the Los Angeles Chargers during the 2019 campaign. He put up six receptions for 30 yards in five games before his season was cut short due to a quad injury.
With the NFL facing a cap crunch due to the loss in revenue last season, general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan will have to make a tough decision on how to approach negotiations with Kendrick Bourne. The 25-year-old was No. 3 on the depth chart behind Samuel and Aiyuk and is set to become a free agent. Over the Cap projects Bourne’s value on the open market at $6.3 million, an amount the 49ers will likely balk at paying.
Benjamin could slide into the rotation when he returns next season and give San Francisco a vertical threat it didn’t have last season.
How much of an impact do you think Benjamin could have next season? Is there another veteran free agent you would like the 49ers to target in free agency?