This is the time of year when surprise cuts litter the NFL transaction wire and big name players hit the open market as teams look to save money by cutting ties with larger cap hits. On Wednesday morning, it was reported that veteran wide receiver Robert Woods had been released by the Tennessee Titans, making Woods a free agent free to sign with any team starting on March 15th.
Woods is a ten-year NFL veteran, who 49ers fans know well after spending five seasons with the Los Angeles Rams. While Woods was in the NFC West, he posted per season averages of 74 receptions, 925 yards, and 5 touchdowns, playing a major role on a Rams' offense that was dynamic during much of that stretch.
While Woods is a fantastic receiving option, perhaps the most valuable skill he brings to the table is his ability to be an impact blocker at the position. For a long time, this allowed the Rams tremendous flexibility with their personnel groupings, and made them extremely effective running the football with three wideouts on the field at the same time.
After spending five years with Sean McVay, Woods already has experience with a lot of the same concepts Kyle Shanahan runs with the 49ers. When you pair the receiving ability, the blocking, and the familiarity with the scheme, on paper, it should be a no-brainer that the 49ers make a run at a player like this.
It’s clear what Woods brings to the table, but the real question is: Would the 49ers get the maximum value out of a player like that? With Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk firmly planted into the top two wide receiver spots, Woods would essentially by default take on the role of the third wide receiver.
For a team that has a number of holes to fill around the roster, ignoring the value they are getting out of a team friendly deal with a player like Jauan Jennings in favor of spending on a player like Woods is a risky maneuver.
Jennings has proven to be an elite blocker in his own right, while also having a penchant for making clutch plays in big time moments, time and time again. As talented of a player as Woods is, it would take quite a bit of usage to justify spending additional money to address a position where the 49ers currently have a bargain with Jennings.
Woods had a 16 million dollar cap hit this past season and at just 30 years old, it’s reasonable to expect he will get a sizeable pay day on the open market from whatever team ends up signing him. Even if the 49ers had the financial flexibility to bring in a player like Woods, would he see enough of a target share to justify the price tag that he will ultimately command?
It’s important to remember how much of an advantage the 49ers have with Kyle Juszczyk on the field, allowing them the flexibility to attack teams out of 22 personnel and throw opposing defenses a curveball they don’t often see in the modern NFL.
Already boasting a potential lineup in this personnel grouping of Samuel, Aiyuk, Juszczyk, George Kittle, and Christian McCaffrey at the skill positions would effectively make a player like Woods a luxury far more than a necessity.
Woods is a fantastic player, and he undoubtedly improves any team that me might join. However, it just doesn’t seem like a wise investment for the 49ers at this point, given their incumbent depth at the position and the needs they have to address elsewhere to keep this roster a championship contender.