49ers lose kick returner Ray-Ray McCloud in free agency to Falcons

The 49ers need a new kick and punt returner.

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks
San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks / Jane Gershovich/GettyImages

The San Francisco 49ers lost their kick and punt returner Ray-Ray McCloud in free agency to the Atlanta Falcons.

He also served as a wide receiver for the team.

It is not a surprising departure, but the Niners now need to find a new guy to return kicks.

49ers lose Ray-Ray McCloud in free agency to the Falcons

The reporting is that McCloud is joining the Falcons on a two-year deal worth roughly $6 million.

McCloud spent the last two seasons with the Niners where he was the primary kick- and punt-return man. He never wowed with his return abilities, but he was mostly solid in the role.

Unfortunately, his legacy as a 49er will likely be his inability to recover a punt that deflected off a teammate in the Super Bowl. Really, McCloud does not deserve to be blamed for the play since it was such a weird deflection that was difficult to react to.

McCloud himself has defended himself from criticism on the play.

As a receiver, McCloud did not do a ton for San Francisco. He had 243 receiving yards and one touchdown in 2022, and he had 135 receiving yards in 2023, albeit in an injury-shortened season that saw him play in only 12 games.

It is unclear who the Niners will have return kicks and punts for them next season. Ronnie Bell saw action in that role while McCloud was injured, but his performance did not inspire the most confidence.

The 49ers could potentially go and sign a wide receiver who specializes in kick returns in free agency. They could also look to draft a player who has that skill.

Did anybody say Luke McCaffrey?

A future article will examine the options, both internal and external, for the 49ers at kick returner. For right now, though, McCloud's departure makes the kick return situation unclear heading into next season.

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