49ers love Chris Conley, but is there room for him on the 2024 roster?

Chris Conley has plenty of competition for one of the few remaining spots on the Niners' depth chart at wide receiver.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Chris Conley (84)
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Chris Conley (84) / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

Chris Conley was a playoff hero for the 49ers last season, but a crowded wide receiver room could make him an odd man out heading into 2024.

Even if he never plays another snap for the San Francisco 49ers, wide receiver Chris Conley is a playoff hero.

Not because he took over postseason games for head coach Kyle Shanahan with some gaudy snaps.

Rather because of one play in which he helped set up the Niners' thrilling come-from-behind win over the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round last January. Trailing 21-17, quarterback Brock Purdy and the San Francisco offense needed Conley to come up big on a first-down catch in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.

Conley did just that.

Yet Conley's tenure with the 49ers is pretty quiet aside from that lone spectacular play. After joining the Niners in spring of 2023 as a free agent after time spent with the Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans, the 6-foot-3 and 205-pound wideout spent the year as a regular call-up from the practice squad, essentially serving as an emergency receiver whenever Shanahan needed another body.

The 31-year-old Conley's stat line with San Francisco? Just three receptions on six targets for 69 yards over eight games played.

The limited use doesn't bode well for Conley's future with the 49ers despite signing a one-year deal during the offseason to stay in the Bay Area. Combined with a slew of other transactions at the position, the veteran might simply be a victim of the numbers game.

Or, at best, he reverts back to the kind of use the Niners had for him last year.

Chris Conley aims to make back end of 49ers WR depth chart (but will he survive the cut?)

San Francisco's first three wide receivers are all but set entering 2024: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings. While Aiyuk's contractual holdout has cast a shadow on the roster through minicamp, it's important to remember he's still under team control for the upcoming season.

Conley may assist with that if Aiyuk's holdout continues into training camp, particularly serving as an experienced veteran who once had a career-high 775 receiving yards with the Jags back in 2019.

But, that's where things begin to get cloudy.

Earlier this offseason, the 49ers used two draft picks on rookie wideouts, Ricky Pearsall in Round 1 and Jacob Cowing in Round 4, while also reuniting with one of their 2017 draftees, Trent Taylor, via free agency.

Additionally, returning receivers like Ronnie Bell and Danny Gray will compete alongside others, such as Tay Martin and Terique Owens, for higher spots on the depth chart.

Assuming the Niners keep no more than six wideouts on their 53-man roster, and at least four of those spots are already accounted for, it's not hard to see why Conley faces quite the uphill fight to survive post-preseason roster cuts.

The veteran savvy works in his favor, and all accounts point to Conley being respected by both players and coaches.

However, barring collapses from multiple younger receivers in training camp, the stronger likelihood is Conley winds up being another one of those cuts, perhaps landing back on the practice squad and waiting for a call-up call at various points during the regular season.

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