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Looking at the remaining free-agent wide receivers to see if there’s a fit with the 49ers

Houston Texans v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers aren’t done re-signing/signing players in free agency and still have over 20 unrestricted free agents. After losing Kendrick Bourne to the Patriots, and it is unlikely the Niners re-sign Trent Taylor, the current receiving core looks like this:

Deebo Samuel
Brandon Aiyuk
Richie James
River Cracraft
Jalen Hurd
Travis Benjamin
Jauan Jennings

James was quietly effective last season as he had 23 receptions for 394 yards. That’s an average of 17.1 yards per reception. Fourteen of James’ 23 receptions went for first downs, and the quarterbacks had a 113.3 rating when targeting James. I’d love to see him get more of an opportunity, but consistency has been an issue throughout his career.

Cracraft is a special teamer. We have no evidence that Hurd is reliable. Jennings was hurt his entire rookie season and was below Tavon Austin and Shawn Poindexter's last training camp. Benjamin opted out last season.

That leads us to the free-agent market. Over the Cap has the Niners at around $13 million in cap space before Dee Ford’s restructured contract. The team could extend Laken Tomlinson, Mike McGlinchey, and/or Fred Warner to create more cap space if needed. If there is a player on the market San Francisco wants to sign, they won’t be hindered by the cap.

Here’s a look at some notable free-agent wide receivers available. I’m leaving off Kenny Golladay as he’s expected to sign with the New York Giants. Let’s act as if JuJu Smith-Schuster lands with the Jets as well:

T.Y. Hilton
Golden Tate
Will Fuller
Antonio Brown
DeSean Jackson
Willie Snead

Hilton, 31, is a player that is talented, but I wouldn’t call a “fit” for Kyle Shanahan’s offense. He feels closer to a possession receiver who doesn’t create for himself after the catch. Don’t be fooled by Hilton’s size. He’s primarily an outside receiver. While I like the idea of Samuel playing more as a slot receiver, I wouldn’t give Hilton the money he’ll command on the market in this offense. Pass.

Tate had numerous incidents with the Giants, and it feels like he’s been what most people would describe as a “locker room problem” everywhere he’s been. It would be smart for the 49ers to add a veteran presence as we saw what that did for Deebo during the second half of his rookie year. But adding any veteran doesn’t make sense. Tate, who will be 33 when the season starts, has always been known as one of the best wide receivers in the league when the ball is in his hands. The last time he played in 16 games was in 2017. Pass.

Fuller is a tremendous talent who also excelled early in his career as a punt returner. Fuller will be 27 in April. When he was on the field for the Texans, their offense was dynamic. Fuller averaged 16 yards per reception this past season on 53 catches and had eight touchdowns. He’s a walking big-play threat, but 38 of those receptions were first downs. This may surprise some, but Fuller averaged 5.5 yards after the catch.

Will Fuller stayed healthy for this first time in his career last season before getting suspended the final five games for PEDs. Fuller would be the best name available.

You know all about Brown and Jackson. Snead is an interesting name as he’s a guy who wins over the middle of the field and is surprisingly effective after the catch, despite not having the same physical tools as a player like Fuller. Snead would be cheap, effective, and is sure-handed. Nearly 70% of Snead’s receptions last season went for a first down. If you’re unfamiliar with Snead, he’s as similar of a player to Bourne on this list.