The incredible offseason of movement in the NFL continued yesterday with the trade of Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins. Hill became the ninth Pro Bowl player to be traded in the past month. Along with that trade came a brand new deal that will absolutely come up while the 49ers are trying to lock down a new contract for Deebo Samuel.
Things have been good for wide receivers lately. Davante Adams was reunited with his former college quarterback Derek Carr and signed a 5-year deal worth up to $141.5 million. Just for full transparency, the deal really boils down to a three-year contract for $67.5 million and an average of $22.5 million per year. That’s still obviously damn good money.
Tyreek Hill’s new deal in Miami was reported as a five-year, $140.435 million deal. For all intents and purposes, it’s a four-year, $95.435 million contract with a new-money average of $25 million per year.
Both of those players have more of a proven track record of success than Deebo Samuel, but that’s irrelevant to Samuel’s agent, who will surely make them part of the negotiations with the 49ers. No self-respecting agent is going to let his superstar client sign a deal that deviates very far from what players at the same position just earned.
The question is, how much has Deebo earned? He has one season of truly dominant performance on his resume, but it was an incredible season. Despite just 77 catches, Samuel gained an incredible 1,405 receiving yards - almost 55% of which came after the catch. Not to mention his 365 rushing yards, half of which were gained after contract.
Throw in 14 combined touchdowns for good measure, and you’re looking at one of the most impressive offensive seasons in NFL history (at least to everyone except the people who vote on the Offensive Player of the Year Award).
Are the 49ers confident Deebo can produce those kinds of numbers year after year? How much does the transition to Trey Lance factor into things? The offense surely will change once Lance is under center. Do those changes give Samuel less of an opportunity to produce? There are a lot of unknowns here, which isn’t what you want when you have to decide whether to give someone around $20 million a year.
The other factor in all of this is time. The longer the 49ers wait to sign Deebo to a long-term contract, the higher the top of the wide receiver market is going to get. Fellow members of the 2019 receiver class include DK Metcalf, Terry McLaurin, and A.J. Brown. Those players are likely going to look to set the market at their position as well.
As we’ve laid out previously, the franchise tag also looms like a dark cloud over all of these questions. It’s the ace in the hole that the 49ers can use to delay having to make the big decision for a year (or two if they use it twice).
John Lynch has made his position known. He’s called Samuel a “foundational piece” whose contract has been “budgeted for.” As we’ve seen, the market can increase quickly, and with other receivers in the class looking for big deals themselves, time is clearly of the essence. Otherwise, that budget is going to have get a little bit bigger.
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