Trent Sherfield legit might be 49ers’ best offseason move

Trent Sherfield #81 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Trent Sherfield #81 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

While the 49ers made many a high-profile move this offseason, grabbing Trent Sherfield could prove to be the steal of the year.

He hasn’t played a single regular-season snap for the San Francisco 49ers just yet. But fourth-year wide receiver Trent Sherfield might wind up being general manager John Lynch’s best move of the 2021 offseason.

With all due respect to the re-signing of perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams and the trade-up to land rookie quarterback Trey Lance, Sherfield’s one-year free-agent deal could easily wind up being one of those moves where the end results vastly eclipse the expectations.

No surprise why. After all, Sherfield was little more than a special teams ace during his three-year stint with the Arizona Cardinals before jumping ship within the NFC West.

“Textbook Trent,” as fellow wide receiver Mohamed Sanu calls him, made an immediate impact during training camp, serving as a regular and reliable pass-catching target for both quarterbacks, Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo, and it didn’t take long for Sherfield to endear himself to fans, too, hauling in Lance’s first preseason touchdown on an 80-yard bomb against the Kansas City Chiefs back on Aug. 14.

Sherfield, 6-foot-1 and 219 pounds, wasn’t necessarily known for his speed. But he certainly looks faster than his 2018 pro-day 4.45 40-yard time revealed.

And in the two preseason games that followed, Sherfield has remained equally as impressive, finishing off the exhibition campaign with five catches for 156 yards.

Trent Sherfield has exceeded 49ers GM John Lynch’s expectations

Yes, the Niners were going to need to find a way to replace now-New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne’s role as a tertiary wideout behind Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. But few at the time likely thought Sherfield, signed only on a one-year deal worth a mere $920,000, would be that kind of player.

If anything, he would be a special teams contributor and back-of-the-roster wide receiver on the depth chart, someone who might see no more than a handful of offensive snaps per game at most.

Lynch, however, was one of many who began to realize Sherfield was much more than that, telling KNBR 680’s Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks Show (h/t 49ers Webzone):

"We’ve seen Trent Sherfield, who I’m going to be completely honest with you, we [signed] to be a special teams player, knowing he could be a good fourth or fifth receiver. Sometimes, you never know what you’re going to get. We found a guy who’s actually a lot better than that as a receiver, and he’s earned his opportunities. So he’ll get those early."

While San Francisco still might deploy a big-slot weapon like Sanu or even second-year pro Jauan Jennings, Sherfield was the one wide receiver who truly separated from the pack of players to assume high-profile roles behind Samuel and Aiyuk.

And it’ll be an important role, too.

Read More: Trent Sherfield must do one more thing to be 49ers’ 3rd WR

Bourne was regularly responsible for recording two or three catches per game for the 49ers over the last three-plus years. Nowhere near as fast and not quite as physical, Bourne was nevertheless productive enough to be a reliable third-down target and red-zone weapon.

But by the early looks of it, Sherfield is appearing to be an improvement over Bourne and could potentially assume a bigger role, too.

Especially if he’s already generated that needed chemistry with both Lance and Garoppolo.

The prevalence of three-wide receiver sets, even in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, effectively makes a tertiary wideout a starter nowadays. And while tertiary receivers rarely make anything close to the kind of top money spent on proven WR1s or even some WR2s, it’s not uncommon for slot-type receivers to command something in the range of $5 million annually.

For the Niners, a sub-$1 million player contributing at a high level is an absolute bargain.

And based on that alone, Sherfield might prove to be San Francisco’s best under-the-radar move from the entire offseason.

Next. 49ers' 15 best free-agent acquisitions of all time. dark