49ers roster 2023: Why Deebo Samuel bounces back (and why he won't)

Deebo Samuel hated his 2022 efforts and vowed to be better in 2023. Will he be, though?
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel / Kevin Sabitus/GettyImages

Deebo Samuel admitted to putting together an 'awful' 2022 campaign, meaning the 49ers wide back is on a mission this season. But will he achieve his objective?

San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel had a pretty eventful 2022 calendar year.

For starters, following a career-best 1,770 all-purpose yards over the course of the 2021 season, Samuel earned his first-ever first-team All-Pro honor, which was well-deserved when looking at both his stats and importance to the Niners' playoff push that season. In many ways, Samuel carried San Francisco all the way to the NFC Championship game.

Yet the 2022 offseason was also marked with trade requests and an awkward contractual standoff with the 49ers front office.

Samuel ultimately got paid on a new extension, but his follow-up 2022 campaign fell well short of what he was able to do the previous year.

The main critic? Samuel himself.



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When asked about his performance in 2022, which was down from a notably impressive 2019 rookie campaign, Samuel simply replied to reporters, "awful."

He continued:

"Just going through the tape, it was, "Look how sluggish and, like, how bad you look on tape." Like I said, what happened last offseason kind of played a big role in that.

I'll never put nothing on tape like that again."

Read more: Humbled Deebo Samuel on a mission to overwrite his 'awful' 2022 campaign

While his numbers last season weren't awful, it was pretty clear he was no longer the alpha within head coach Kyle Shanahan's offense.

Even if Samuel vows to be much better, both statistically and on film in 2023, the sheer number of other playmaking alphas might make it difficult for him.

So, does he look more like the 2021 All-Pro this year? Or will another San Francisco offensive star shine brighter?

If Deebo Samuel isn't the 49ers' No. 1 option, who is?

Samuel was far from the 49ers' leading receiver in 2022. That accolade went to his wide receiving partner, Brandon Aiyuk, who was the only Niners player to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards last season.

Aiyuk is arguably the better pure wide receiver, although Samuel is far more versatile. In that regard, the two should complement each other and do, especially if both are healthy at the same time, which hasn't always been the case.

Still, there are two other X-factors in the mix here, All-Pro tight end George Kittle and fellow All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, the latter predicted to lead the NFL in touches this season.

With the surplus of talent, Samuel might end up being no more than a secondary or even tertiary option within the offense, which could theoretically lessen his value.

What is Deebo Samuel's contract with 49ers?

Samuel's extension was a three-year, $71.55 million deal with $41 million guaranteed, according to Spotrac.

This season, Samuel could earn up to $8.65 million, which is awfully cheap for a player of his ilk.

However, next season is when Samuel begins to get notably expensive, and he'll be poised to count for $28.57 million against San Francisco's salary cap.

With Aiyuk likely looking at an extension after this season, there's a strong chance the 49ers will have to decide between the two wideouts, although it might not be feasible to make Samuel a cap casualty until after the 2024 season when Aiyuk's post fifth-year-option contract would expire.

Read more: ESPN points out the painful truth about Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk

What should 49ers expect out of Deebo Samuel in 2023?

Samuel looked noticeably in better shape when he reported to training camp earlier this summer, which is a positive for both his potential production and ability to stay healthy, the latter having dogged him in the past.

Assuming Samuel is able to play the bulk of games in 2023, he still would have to have a "season of seasons" to come close to that 1,770-yard effort he enjoyed two years ago.

It'll be a stretch to reach that point, especially if his fellow Niners weapons like Kittle, Aiyuk and McCaffrey all stay healthy and take away snaps.

That said, Samuel could easily crest 1,000 yards receiving while giving San Francisco two 1,000-yard receivers, assuming Aiyuk doubles down on his 2022 performance. Tack on Samuel's "wide-backing" efforts on the ground, which could accumulate an additional 300-plus yards, and the former South Carolina Gamecock could get back to a 1,300-yard all-purpose season.

He might not be the lone alpha on offense, but he still has an excellent shot at being one of many of them.

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