It’s time for SF 49ers to part ways with Dante Pettis

Dante Pettis #18 of the SF 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Dante Pettis #18 of the SF 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

The SF 49ers and their former second-round pick, Dante Pettis, may be better off without each other moving forward.

The conversation coming out of SF 49ers training camp surrounding third-year wide receiver Dante Pettis was all sounding great.

Pettis had underperformed last season before ultimately ending the season as a healthy scratch in the Super Bowl, but both the wideout and Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan have admitted neither player nor coach had handled last season as well as they could have. Pettis reportedly had a good camp and ultimately made the 53-man roster to start the season.

And then the season opener came, with Pettis featuring as a de facto starter with fellow receivers like Deebo Samuel and rookie Brandon Aiyuk out for the game against the Cardinals. Pettis’ final line: one target, which was overthrown a bit but still needed more effort from the receiver, with no catches for zero yards.

According to Pro Football Focus, he was the lowest graded (49.7) player on offense for the SF 49ers.

After last season, where he disappointed on his way to just an 11-catch, 109-yard, and two-touchdown campaign, a lot of good was said about his attitude in camp, but if the first game of 2020 is any indication, no lessons have been learned.

Pettis, it seems, is who is he is.

He may still be one of the better route runners on the team, fluid with the ball in his hands with a solid ability to get open. But he seems unnerved when in contested-catch situations and unwilling to stick his neck into places where heavy contact is inevitable, like on his one target on Sunday.

Pettis is, in many ways, the polar opposite of last year’s rookie breakout star, Deebo Samuel, who appears to seek out contact and forces the defender to make a decision: hit or be hit. Pettis, for all his athletic skill, doesn’t seem built for life as an NFL receiver.

And so it may be time for the SF 49ers to part ways with their former second-round draft pick and give him an opportunity to resurrect his career elsewhere and grant more opportunities for players deeper on the wide receiver depth chart like AIyuk or Richie James, who may have already supplanted Pettis without having played an NFL snap.

SF 49ers benefit financially from moving on from Dante Pettis

The cap implications of cutting Pettis at this point in the season are actually mostly in the 49ers’ favor.

According to Over the Cap, the former Washington Husky has no guaranteed money left on his rookie contract, meaning the only dead money after being released would be a workout bonus worth just over $680,000 while granting a cap savings of just over $1.06 million. The Niners would also save just over $1.3 million on next year’s cap.

The presence of newly signed veteran wide receiver Mohamed Sanu could prove to be the straw that broke the camel’s back in Pettis’ situation.

While Sanu shouldn’t immediately cut into all of Pettis’ 45 snaps from Sunday, it will most certainly reduce them, especially if Aiyuk is ready to go for Sunday’s trip to MetLife Stadium to take on the New York Jets.

And then once Samuel is back, Pettis would at best be the fifth option in the receivers room, not even factoring in slot receiver Trent Taylor, who might even be ahead of Pettis in the pecking order, or Richie James.

Even in terms of just pure numbers, Pettis would be the odd man out, and while he may not get the ax right away, Samuel’s likely return from the IR after the second of two games at MetLife against the Giants could spell the end of Pettis’ time as a member of the SF 49ers.

The long and the short of it is that sometimes players just need a change of scenery after such a tumultuous season like the one Pettis had in 2019.

There may still be a player there, but it feels almost impossible that the SF 49ers are the team to pull that player out of the current iteration of Pettis.

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And with other players nipping at his heels on the depth chart, if they haven’t already leapfrogged over him, it’s probably time for both Pettis and the SF 49ers to get a fresh start.