49ers must regret not re-signing Patriots WR Kendrick Bourne

Kendrick Bourne #84 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Kendrick Bourne #84 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

The 49ers elected to pass on re-signing wide receiver Kendrick Bourne in NFL free agency, and he’s now thriving in his role with the surging Patriots.

On one hand, it’s great news former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Kendrick Bourne is performing so well in his first year with the New England Patriots this season. For a former undrafted free agent who was little more than an afterthought when he broke into the league with the Niners back in 2017, that’s quite an achievement.

On the other hand, though, San Francisco is probably regretting letting him walk in NFL free agency last offseason.

Bourne is already on pace to widely surpass his previous career-best totals, set with the 49ers a year ago, and currently has 42 receptions for 623 yards and five touchdowns over 12 games this season, emerging as one of rookie quarterback Mac Jones’ primary go-to options in key situations.

Not totally unlike Bourne’s role with the Niners the previous three years, only magnified now. He’s been excellent in that role this season, too, already boasting six games of 50-plus receiving yards and two where he’s recorded at least 90.

San Francisco could surely have used that kind of production now.

49ers are missing Kendrick Bourne as a tertiary receiving option

Bourne probably wouldn’t have achieved the same kind of success, had he somehow managed to stick around with the 49ers into 2021, as the Niners were planning on featuring the wide receiver duo of Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk to maximum effect.

What San Francisco had been looking for, and essentially has been ever since, is that quality No. 3 option at the position, someone capable of hauling in two to three clutch passes per game when the top-two options are covered.

In that role, Bourne performed admirably during his four-year stint with the 49ers, and it was clear he would have entertained staying with the Niners if their NFL free agency offer was substantial enough.

However things panned out, it was clear San Francisco’s offer couldn’t match the three-year, $15 million deal he received from New England.

Instead, the 49ers have been hoping depth wideouts like Mohamed Sanu, Trent Sherfield and Jauan Jennings could fill that void.

Of those three, Sanu remains the leader with just 15 catches, 177 yards and zero touchdowns, also currently shelved on injured reserve.

Deebo Samuel injury should make 49ers miss Kendrick Bourne even more

Samuel’s All-Pro-caliber efforts this season have largely overshadowed Bourne’s offseason exit, and Samuel is easily the Niners’ No. 1 offensive weapon thus far in 2021, while Aiyuk has also turned on the proverbial jets as of late.

But San Francisco is expected to be without Samuel for a game, perhaps two after he suffered a groin injury during the 49ers’ Week 12 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

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In previous years, those injury-related situations would almost always open up the door for Bourne to play a bigger role. Considering the Niners have yet to fully identify that tertiary option, Bourne’s absence from the equation is something head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co. could sorely miss in the immediate future.

For Bourne, he’s a prime reason why the Pats are now surging, currently sitting atop the AFC East with an 8-4 record, a six-game win streak and the league’s No. 7 scoring offense.

Good for him. Not necessarily good for San Francisco.

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