Everyone wants a Deebo Samuel on their team.
The San Francisco 49ers’ do-everything wide receiver, perhaps the most explosively talented player in the league, could be on the outs with his current employer, a prospect that has 31 other franchises salivating. The issue seems to surround contract extension negotiations that have apparently taken a turn for the worse, according to Pro Football Talk:
First, Adam Schefter of ESPN declared on the air (although has not tweeted), that Samuel has pulled the plug on contract talks with the 49ers.
“San Francisco would pay Deebo Samuel today, tomorrow, the next day. It’s not hard to figure out what the contract would look like, we’ve seen some of the top numbers in the league,” Schefter said, via Wilton Jackson of SI.com. “This, I think right now, is Deebo Samuel not wanting to get a deal done. . . . The 49ers are ready. Deebo Samuel is the one who has put a halt to everything for right now.”
Second, Deebo’s brother, Tyquan Samuel, made multiple social-media comments indicating that Deebo wants to be traded, and that he won’t be a member of the 49ers.
It’s unclear how it got to this point. Our best guess is that negotiations commenced, and that the 49ers made Samuel an offer that he regarded as too low. Sufficiently low to prompt Samuel to conclude that the team will never offer him anything close to what he wants.
Samuel has deleted all mention of the 49ers from his social media pages, but we’ve seen that move made by other players in the past and they didn’t go anywhere. However, this situation seems to have legs. The Eagles, of course, could certainly use another talented wide receiver to add to the mix and, combined with DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins and Zach Pascal, would give Philadelphia a fearsome and explosive group of wideouts. The same could be said for any team Samuel is potentially traded to.
While visions of Samuel busting big plays and breaking the will of opposing defenses is tantalizing, the cost of acquiring someone like Samuel would be enormous, both in terms of trade capital and salary figures.
Let’s talk about the money first.
49ers WR Deebo Samuel wants to be the highest paid non quarterback because of his impact and versatility. Who can argue after what he did in 2021?— Clarence Hill Jr (@clarencehilljr) April 7, 2022
That distinction currently belongs to Tyreek Hill, making $30 million per year, a huge number. Is it too much to give to any wide receiver?
Consider that DeVonta Smith averaged 6.1 targets per game for the Eagles last year (104 in 17 games, although he only played in one quarter of Game No. 17) in the run-heaviest scheme in the league. The 49ers also run the ball a lot and, like the Eagles, had a flawed quarterback in Jimmy Garappolo, and Samuel saw 121 targets, an average of 7.1 per game, 21st among NFL wide receivers. Smith was 33rd.
But Samuel was incredibly productive in those targets, with 77 catches and 1405 yards with 6 TDs and, unlike Smith and virtually every other wideout in football, Samuel was a weapon out of the backfield for Kyle Shanahan, with 59 rushing attempts (3.5 per game) and an incredible 21 TDs. One would imagine Nick Sirianni could find a way to get Samuel 3-4 rushing attempts per game to maximize that ability.
Still, is 7 targets and 3.5 rushing attempts per game enough to warrant $30 million a season? And perhaps that’s even less than he’d get with the Eagles, too.
The Eagles are also not the most financially healthy team in the league. They are $15.6 million under the cap, although draft picks and late-summer additions will suck that number dry, and they are still committed to $36.4 million in dead money in 2022. In ‘23, the dead money drops to $15.4 million.
One would think Howie Roseman would find a way to make a contract work for a big time player like Samuel, who is just 26 years old, no matter what the situation is. But given the potential need for a franchise QB at some point in the next couple years, can they afford to pour that much cap space into a wide receiver?
None of this even takes into account the needs the team faces on defense and other positions. Miles Sanders is on the final year of his deal, the cornerbacks are aging, and the team still needs a viable safety, middle linebacker and help along the defensive front. If Roseman were to give up two or more first round draft picks for a player like Samuel, or even one for a wideout like D.K. Metcalf or any other wideout that may pop up on the trade market, does it shortchange their ability to improve defensively too greatly?
All of this conversation about adding Samuel is academic, as he may not even be going anywhere. Same with Metcalf. But when considering adding a big-time player like this, it’s important to remember the costs involved and what it means for the rest of the roster.