Deebo Samuel’s contract situation with the 49ers won’t matter until it potentially cuts into his offseason workouts with the rest of the team.
Right now, it sure appears as if the San Francisco 49ers and All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel are sworn enemies. At least in terms of likely contract standoffs and in the wake of Samuel’s social media “war” with the Niners, perhaps it is.
Yet both parties understand the business side of things, and both are fully immersed in it. As Samuel is trying to capitalize on what’ll likely be a new contract worth more than $23 million annually, San Francisco won’t mind pushing back.
Especially with Samuel still under contract through this upcoming season.
The 49ers don’t need to do anything right now. In fact, they hold the final leverage in that regard. Sure, Samuel can hold out for a new deal. But under the league’s current collective bargaining agreement, players incur awfully stiff fines and penalties if they end up missing training camp or preseason games.
What if Samuel elects to hold out on other offseason workouts, though, such as minicamps and organized team activities?
He could do this, and there wouldn’t be any fines or penalties in that regard. Yet the business aspect of Samuel’s contract situation would ultimately spill over a bit into what the Niners are looking to accomplish on the field.
Deebo Samuel’s potential hold-out absence opens up doors for other 49ers wide receivers to make an impact
Let’s make one thing clear: San Francisco would much prefer Samuel to set aside whatever issues he has with any contract situation once the team’s offseason programs officially begin, if for no other reason than to start fully developing chemistry with second-year quarterback Trey Lance.
Related note, even if veteran signal-caller Jimmy Garoppolo is still on the roster by that point, his offseason shoulder surgery is going to prevent him from throwing until training camp at the soonest, meaning Lance is going to get all those first-team reps in workouts in the meantime.
Reps intended with players like Samuel.
From that perspective, Lance doesn’t exactly benefit. But other wideouts should see increased looks if Samuel is absent.
Currently, the 49ers have nine wide receivers rostered, namely with recent free-agent pickups of Marcus Johnson and Malik Turner. Those two, along with depth options like Connor Wedington, Austin Mack and KeeSean Johnson are likely to see only second-team reps at best during minicamps and OTAs, however, the other two “presumed” starters like Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings surely stand to gain a lot.
Aiyuk is all but guaranteed a roster spot in 2022. That’s clear. But he would be looked at as the clear-cut WR1 if Samuel stays away from the facility.
Lance is already working out in Southern California with Aiyuk, Jennings, Wedington and another recent free-agent pickup, Ray-Ray McCloud:
Aiyuk and, to a lesser extent, Jennings could end up solidifying their roles long before training camp begins if Samuel isn’t there to take away practice reps and targets from Lance. Naturally, this wouldn’t impact any field time in the regular season. However, the chemistry between quarterbacks and wide receivers is one of those elements that can’t exactly be quantified.
Perhaps that’s why Aiyuk would stand to benefit the most, even if the Niners would much prefer Samuel to be a full offseason participant.