49ers roster: Little room for speedy Marcus Johnson in 2022

Marcus Johnson #88 of the Tennessee Titans (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Marcus Johnson #88 of the Tennessee Titans (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The 49ers spent considerable effort reinforcing the back end of their wide receiver room, and that means Marcus Johnson might not make the cut in 2022.

One of the side effects of the NFL having its annual draft follow the opening of free agency is the fact teams will often make previous free-agent acquisitions expendable via which players they grab throughout the three-day draft period.

It’s the opposite in the NBA, for your information.

At any rate, the San Francisco 49ers had no clue how their wide receiver room would shake out getting deeper into 2022, and that partially explains why they onboarded two notably fast depth wide receivers in the second wave of NFL free agency this offseason, Malik Turner and Marcus Johnson.

Johnson, the player we’ll break down in this feature, broke into the league as an undrafted free-agent signing of the Philadelphia Eagles back in 2016 out of the University of Texas, yet the 6-foot-1 and 207-pound wideout has bounced around the league a little bit since then.

Marcus Johnson Receiving Table
3 yr3 yrIND249693763417.1328551.526.453.6%0
1 yr1 yrPHI10085459.003160.54.562.5%1
1 yr1 yrTEN7319916017.807501.322.947.4%0

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 6/25/2022.

Turning 28 years old, Johnson nevertheless faces another stiff competition to make the Niners’ 53-man roster out of training camp, thanks largely to some of his new team’s other additions since he was acquired on a one-year, $1.035 million contract.

In addition to Turner and one of San Francisco’s NFL Draft pickups, Danny Gray, Johnson will be in a fight for what’ll likely be one of two spots on the receiving depth chart entering 2022.

Let’s break down what’s on tap for the veteran.

Why Marcus Johnson might impress 49ers enough to stick around

While Johnson has been little more than just a depth receiver at any point in his career, one of the notable skills that should give him a bit of a leg up over some of the other options on the 49ers roster is his speed.

During his 2016 pro day, Johnson clocked a 4.39 40-yard speed, which might give him a chance to emerge as a deep-threat gadget weapon in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

This element has largely been missing from Shanahan’s offense in recent years. And while Gray’s own speedy profile could wind up being what the Niners prefer, the rookie’s hands are surely a bit more questionable in contrast to those of Johnson.

Why Marcus Johnson flames out with 49ers

San Francisco likely has its top four spots on the depth chart figured out already:

  1. Deebo Samuel
  2. Brandon Aiyuk
  3. Jauan Jennings
  4. Ray-Ray McCloud

McCloud, known for his special teams prowess and the ability to return punts and kickoffs to great effect, isn’t going anywhere. And it’s not likely Gray is either, perhaps suggesting only one spot is left for someone like Johnson to claim.

Johnson has served on special teams before, so that’ll go a long way towards determining his roster chances. But as far as being a pure speed threat, it’s an element McCloud, Gray and Turner also boast, too, meaning Johnson likely has just as equal a chance of being bumped off the regular-season roster as he does making it.

Chances Marcus Johnson makes 49ers’ 53-man roster this season

There’s actually a slight edge for Johnson surviving roster cuts and somehow finding himself named to the 2022 regular-season squad, and that’s the fact he carries $250,000 in guaranteed money.

True, it’s not overly substantial when compared to other top-paid wide receivers, and Turner is nevertheless a shade more with $300,000 in guarantees.

But when lined up against another fringe wide receiver, such as KeeSean Johnson or even some of the other undrafted free-agent wideouts like Tay Martin or Taysir Mack, Marcus Johnson would appear to have a bit more of an advantage.

Still, there’s likely only one spot available for Johnson, Turner, Martin or Mack, and that’s only if San Francisco elects to keep six wide receivers anyway.

In order to stick around and avoid being let go, Johnson will have to be the clear-cut winner of that back-end-of-the-roster competition in training camp and the preseason.

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