Deebo Samuel upset with ‘wide back’ role, per Ian Rapoport

Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

While the standoff between Deebo Samuel and the 49ers apparently centered around money and a new contract, there’s another factor likely at play here.

After months of wondering whether or not All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel would ever play another down for the San Francisco 49ers again, in light of his high-profile trade request earlier this offseason, signs are pointing towards the two sides mending their relationship.

Samuel skipped the voluntary workout program known as organized team activities, but he did show up for mandatory minicamp, although he didn’t partake in on-field team practices.

Still, that’s a good sign the two sides are working towards what should be a lucrative contract extension, one that likely makes the former second-round pick out of South Carolina one of the highest-paid receivers in the game.

“Receiver,” not a hybrid-type offensive weapon.

Samuel wowed in 2021 with 1,770 all-purpose yards, third most in the NFL a year ago, and 365 of those came on the ground, including eight of his 14 total touchdowns scored.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, though, that kind of usage might be at the heart of the rift between the receiver and the Niners.

Ian Rapoport suggests Deebo Samuel doesn’t want ‘wide back’ designation anymore

Appearing on The Pat McAfee Show (h/t 49ers Webzone), Rapoport broke down the reasons why he thinks Samuel grew frustrated with San Francisco, ultimately leading to the standoff that went so public earlier this offseason:

“He wants to be paid as a receiver,” Rapoport noted. “… This contract is great, but he doesn’t want it to be his only contract. I mean, we see what happens to running backs—they get beat up. It’s actually really forward-thinking and smart. It really is.”

Two things of note here.

First, running backs almost never receive the kind of top-dollar money as elite wide receivers do, especially in today’s pass-happy NFL. Second, the average career of a running back almost never extends beyond a player turning 30 years old.

Already 26 years old and facing his first chance at a big contract, plus with a history of both collegiate and NFL injuries, Samuel doesn’t want to subject his body to the added punishment of frequent carries.

Will 49ers relinquish Deebo Samuel’s role as a ‘wide back?’

If Rapoport is right and Samuel is unhappy with the kind of use he saw last season, the 49ers may have already indicated they’re willing to adjust.

The Niners aggressively drafted former LSU running back Tyrion Davis-Price in the third round last April, and that might have been seen as a bit of a reach. However, Davis-Price looks to be an in-between-the-tackles kind of runner, lessening the likely workload Samuel might otherwise receive here.

And it’s something Rapoport pointed out, too:

"What the 49ers, I think, have done is try to say to him, “We are not gonna use you as a running back.” They drafted a running back in the third round. They have a couple of good players, running backs, coming back from last year. I think they’d like to use him on the gadget plays but not give it to him between the tackles 15 times. That is something that actually speaks maybe louder than a new contract."

Read More: 49ers playing with fire by using Deebo Samuel as a ‘wide back’

Granted, star players usually want the ball in their hands in big moments, so there’s a bit of giving and pulling here. Yet saving Samuel for more receiving duties could be one of the primary factors in mending the relationship.

Adding Davis-Price would indicate that was a priority for San Francisco.

The other priority would be figuring out what kind of contract Samuel will command, then going through the remaining stages of those discussions, which are still a ways off from being completed.

For now, though, it still appears as if both sides are closer to a mutual agreement.

Next. 49ers' 15 best first-round NFL Draft picks of all time. dark