All signs are pointing to the 49ers ultimately giving All-Pro Deebo Samuel a hefty contract extension, but let’s explore what happens if they don’t.
On the surface, it would appear as if the San Francisco 49ers are closing the gap on what’s been a high-profile standoff with All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel, whose trade request earlier this offseason wasn’t granted by general manager John Lynch and Co.
Not trading Samuel during the 2022 NFL Draft was the first hurdle the Niners had to clear towards rectifying the relationship. Perhaps investing a third-round pick in another running back, Tyrion Davis-Price, thereby helping alleviate concerns Samuel has regarding his dual-threat use, was another.
While no contract extension for the 2019 second-round draft pick out of South Carolina has materialized, Samuel nevertheless physically showed up for San Francisco’s mandatory minicamp, a good sign that things are progressing towards some realm of normalcy.
But, what if the 49ers aren’t actually aiming at extending Samuel this offseason?
Evidence suggests 49ers may not extend Deebo Samuel in 2022
For the most part, the Niners do have a strong history of rewarding their top players. Case in point, All-Pros George Kittle and Fred Warner received their extensions just before training camp when they were both eligible, and San Francisco dished out a hefty free-agent deal for All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams, too, when he hit the open market briefly in 2021.
That said, the wide receiver market has exploded from a financial perspective this offseason, as laid out by ESPN’s Field Yates:
Understandably, Samuel wants to capitalize on this. And while the 49ers likely want to reward him, too, they don’t want to be burned by what could be a bad contract two or three years down the road.
It’s unclear whether or not Lynch had a hidden message in a report to the media earlier this offseason when he said, “Well, we haven’t traded him, and — I’ve used the word fool — I’d be a fool to trade him. So, yes, Deebo will be part of the 49ers this season.”
“This season,” are the words worth pointing out here. It just so happens this season is the final one in which Samuel is under contract.
Maybe the Niners are playing hardball, understanding fully well that they have some serious leverage over Samuel entering 2022.
Options if 49ers don’t extend Deebo Samuel in 2022
There’s no questioning the fact Samuel would be awfully upset if he didn’t receive his contract extension before training camp kicks off in late July, and having a disgruntled player on the roster isn’t exactly a smart part of the formula for a San Francisco squad in win-now mode.
According to Over the Cap, Samuel is scheduled to make up to $4.89 million this season and is scheduled to hit NFL free agency in 2023, should no deal materialize.
However, that doesn’t automatically mean Samuel would hit the open market next year if the 49ers opted not to extend him. They could always slap the franchise tag on him, which OTC projects to have a projected fully guaranteed value of $19.985 million for wide receivers.
Another franchise tag in 2024 could be in play, too.
From this vantage point, Samuel could technically be under control for two more years after this one, even though few players regard franchise tags as a preferred way to go.
As far as Samuel fighting back, he could feasibly decide to hold out. But holding out isn’t what it used to be prior to the current collective bargaining agreement, which places hefty mandatory fines on players for each day of training camp missed, and those fines increase if players miss either preseason or regular-season games.
For players on rookie contracts, such as Samuel, missing camp could cost $40,000 a day, while skipping out on games could cost one week’s worth of base salary.
Of course, Samuel could respond in the same manner he did during mandatory minicamp where he physically attended but didn’t partake in any on-field workouts, sort of a “hold-in” if we’re looking at wordage.
That’s not exactly an ideal situation for the Niners either, though, and it’s still probably in their best interest to get ahead of the market as soon as possible with Samuel, even if it means dishing out a hefty chunk of change.