49ers to add former Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin
By Peter Panacy
The San Francisco 49ers are bringing aboard former Chargers wide receiver Travis Benjamin, who has worked with Kyle Shanahan before, on a one-year deal.
While they won’t be making big splashes in NFL free agency, the San Francisco 49ers are still active in acquiring some depth pieces and complementary players for their offseason roster.
A day after bringing aboard linebacker Joe Walker and defensive lineman Kerry Hyder, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the Niners were adding wide receiver Travis Benjamin on a one-year deal:
San Francisco needs bodies at wide receiver, particularly after losing veteran wideout Emmanuel Sanders to the New Orleans Saints. While the team is hoping for healthy returns from fellow receivers Trent Taylor and Jalen Hurd from injured reserve last season, and a potential bounce-back year from third-year pro Dante Pettis, there are a lot of doubts about the overall health and depth among head coach Kyle Shanahan’s pass catchers.
Benjamin, who was initially drafted by the Cleveland Browns in Round 4 of the 2012 NFL Draft, worked with Shanahan when the latter was Cleveland’s offensive coordinator in 2014.
That year, Benjamin enjoyed a productive reserve role, accumulating 314 yards on 18 receptions with three touchdowns.
The following season, after Shanahan departed for the Atlanta Falcons, Benjamin nearly reached 1,000 receiving yards in what turned out to be his final year with the Browns before joining the San Diego Chargers.
It’s no surprise Shanahan wanted to target Benjamin, especially recalling how the former Miami wideout ran a 4.36 40-yard time during the 2012 NFL Combine. But Benjamin did spend last season dealing with injuries, which held him to only five games played.
Benjamin’s speed element could ultimately put pressure on fellow 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who was that weapon for Shanahan the last three seasons, albeit in limited fashion the past two years.
This move could either be intended to create some training camp competition for Goodwin or potentially suggests the Niners are preparing to move on from Goodwin, too.
Yet Benjamin does have some question marks, namely with dropped passes over his career. According to Pro Football Focus, Benjamin has 28 of these dating back to 2012. Sixteen of those came during the high point of his career between 2014 and 2016, which could be something to monitor for San Francisco.
Details of Benjamin’s deal aren’t quite known yet, and the contract numbers will ultimately point to whether or not the 49ers are considering him as a legitimate piece of the offense this season or little more than a training camp body with an outside chance to make the regular-season roster.
And Benjamin’s hold on a would-be roster spot will also be contingent on the team’s actions during the upcoming 2020 NFL Draft this April.