Some consistency at quarterback could open up the door for 49ers wide receiver Jauan Jennings to have a career-best year in 2023.
Jennings, known more for breaking tackles than his speed, should have been drafted higher. But a 4.73 40-yard time during the NFL Combine that year didn't help matters, and it seemed as if that sluggish pace would relegate Jennings off of head coach Kyle Shanahan's radar.
Shanahan loves speed, for what it's worth.
Either way, Jennings found his way to the Niners that year but spent his rookie season on the practice squad, which had to be a disappointment.
In 2021, though, Jennings turned into quite the third-down weapon and red-zone choice for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
Yards per Reception
While Jennings wasn't as much a red-zone weapon in 2022, he nevertheless was a more preferable target.
In total, over his career, 35 of his 59 receptions have come on third down. It's pretty clear what the 6-foot-3, 212-pound receiver's role with San Francisco is.
A third-down weapon. And a vitally good one at that.
What does Jauan Jennings' contract with 49ers look like?
Since Jennings failed to make the 53-man roster his first year in the league, his initial four-year rookie deal was made void.
Now, heading into year four of his pro career, Jennings will be a restricted free agent in 2024 but will play out this upcoming 2023 season earning up to $940,000 with zero in dead money, if cut, according to Over the Cap.
Normally, having nothing in dead money would jeopardize a player's roster chances, but it's pretty safe to assume Jennings will make the 49ers' 53-man roster.
Will Jauan Jennings have a career year in 2023?
While going into RFA status next year doesn't exactly constitute a traditional "contract year," at least by that term, Jennings should have plenty of motivation this upcoming season.
For starters, there should be some consistency at quarterback with Brock Purdy poised to be the No. 1 option on the depth chart. Purdy doesn't exactly have the NFL's strongest arm, which means the slower Jennings isn't going to have to rely on go routes to get open for his quarterback.
It should be assumed these two develop a modest chemistry in 2023.
On top of that, the Niners have a bit of competition at wide receiver this year, too, especially after onboarding former Michigan wideout Ronnie Bell in Round 7 of this year's draft.
While Jennings is likely part of the "lock" group that'll make the 53-man roster, including wideouts Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel, someone like Bell could potentially threaten Jennings' hold on a key role, particularly as that third-down weapon.
If Jennings is motivated enough as a receiving weapon, and he continues his excellent role as a "get under your skin" kind of blocker, that key role won't be in doubt.
And Jennings will remain one of San Francisco's more important but less-heralded weapons this season.