The 49ers are all paid up on Deebo Samuel.
Unwilling to grant his April trade request, they instead rewarded him – as promised – with a three-year, $73.5 million contract extension, as first reported Sunday by NFL Network.
Samuel was the 49ers’ catalyst to last season’s NFC Championship Game, and although he’s conditioned on the side at training camp this past week, he did not participe in practice, which did not seem to fluster coach Kyle Shanahan.
“We’re good. And we understand our role,” Shanahan said Saturday. “I know there’s a lot of noise for five months and tweets and a lot of people are repeating what someone said and repeating and repeating and repeating.
“There’s a lot of negotiations going on. There’s a lot of money involved,” Shanahan added. “It’s a big business deal, but besides everything else, we’re good.”
How good of a deal did Samuel get? Well, his contract comes with $58.1 million guaranteed, and, upon initial reports, it seems similar to the deal brokered by his agent, Tory Andy, last week between the Seattle Seahawks and DK Metcalf (three years, $72 million; $52.1 million guaranteed).
What will the 49ers now get in return?
Samuel will be hard-pressed to repeat last season’s offensive fireworks, but he may not have to, if the supporting cast shines around new quarterback Trey Lance.
Still, Samuel’s physical style and dogged determination are a spark whenever the ball is in his hands, and that is why retraining him was a must for Shanahan’s offense.
Three seasons into his career, Samuel is absolutely unique in a profession full of talented play-makers, full of demands, and short on supply.
No one does what Deebo did in 2021, when he not only produced over 1,400 receiving yards and also ran for eight touchdowns, the most ever by an NFL wide receiver in a single season.
Such talents made him a First-Team All-Pro, and it’s why he understandably commanded a top-of-the-market contract in an offseason where receivers’ pay grades soared. His should be the final big-money contract to drop for this season. His agent, Tory Dandy, brokered an extension Thursday for fellow 2019 draft-class product DK Metcalf (three years, $72 million, per ESPN).
While awaiting his new contract, Samuel bypassed the 49ers’ voluntary offseason program from April to June. But he did show up for June’s mandatory minicamp, albeit mostly as an observer who did conditioning work on the side, just as he did upon reporting to training camp.
Samuel certainly deserved to cash in on a durable, versatile, commendable season that continued into the playoffs.
Remember when he strutted onto the field, hollered to coach Kyle Shanahan for the ball, and promptly ran 26 yards for a 49ers touchdown in a playoff win over the rival Dallas Cowboys? Or how he multi-tasked in their next win at Green Bay? He wanted the rock. Now he found financial paydirt.
WHY ALL THE FUSS?
This contract extension was budgeted for and publicly forecast by the 49ers for months. The team tried to broker a deal back in February, according to a source.
Things took a turn in April, however, with salvos from Samuel about discontent. He scrubbed all 49ers’ connections from his social media and then confirmed to ESPN a trade request.
Since then, Samuel hasn’t publicly spoken to the media, allowing speculation to run rampant that his issues were not finance-related, that perhaps he was upset over his dual use as a receiver and rusher, though that seemed far-fetched considering how much he craved having the ball in his hands.
It took 23 years for the 49ers to draft an All-Pro wide receiver after Terrell Owens. That relationship ended in a trade amid hurt feelings and fiscal demands.
Samuel, a 2019 second-round pick, is not taking the ball and going to a new home. Even if the 49ers’ brass insisted he’d stay, it was only two years ago they traded away a three-year veteran and All-Pro in DeForest Buckner, who merited a first-round pick (No. 13 overall) from the Indianapolis Colts.
Shanahan said during the draft that no prospective suitor came close to offering anything compelling enough to trade Samuel.
FUTURE USE WITH 49ERS
The 49ers’ offense thrives with Samuel’s versatility, physicality and yards-after-the-touch brilliance.
But a makeover is expected at the team’s most vital position: Lance is taking over in his second year for Jimmy Garoppolo, who remains on the roster after shoulder surgery stalled trade talks.
Lance’s strong-armed passing and zig-zag rushing should inspire creativity from Shanahan’s motion-based, matchup-crushing schemes. Of Lance’s five touchdown passes in limited action last year, three went to Samuel.
He remains the leader of the wide receiving corps, though 2020 draft picks Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings took strides this offseason, including work with Lance away from the facility. Ray-Ray McCloud could lessen Samuel’s snaps in the slot, and rookie Danny Gray will offer a deep-threat target for Lance.
The drafting of Gray and running back Ty Davis-Price with third-round picks is seen by some as a goodwill gesture to Samuel, that he won’t have to carry such a big load. Then again, it’s not as if Samuel is a deep-threat artist (see: Gray) or a between-the-tackles rusher (see: Davis-Price).
Running the football remains at the crux of Shanahan’s scheme, and the 49ers have back last year’s corps of Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson Jr., JaMycal Hasty and Trey Sermon, the latter of whom barely factored as a rookie.
This offense isn’t a one-man band. The 49ers are paying top dollar at left tackle (Trent Williams), tight end (George Kittle) and fullback (Kyle Juszczyk) for Pro Bowl players who not long ago seemed as irreplaceable as Samuel.
SAMUEL’S UNIQUE ABILITY
Samuel’s third season with the 49ers had him become their first All-Pro wide receiver since Owens. But Samuel moonlighted. His eight rushing touchdowns were the most in a season by any NFL wide receiver.
Hence, Samuel crowned himself a “wide back” – a dynamic blend of wide receiver and running back who keyed the 49ers’ midseason turnaround and carried them to the NFC Championship Game.
His final touch: a 12-yard reception with 12 minutes to go and the 49ers leading 17-14. Then the Rams rallied for a 20-17 win en route to the Super Bowl and Lombardi Trophy.
“It’s amazing to be a part of this team, and all the guys, nobody has a problem with nobody,” Samuel said after that season-ending loss to the Los Angeles Rams. “It’s just a big brotherhood and I love it.”
That was the 49ers’ second appearance in the NFC title game in Samuel’s three seasons, and he was more responsible for this latest run than the 2019 season’s efforts that led them to the Super Bowl, where the 49ers blew a fourth-quarter lead just as big (10 points) as theirs in his past NFC Championship.
The next day, Samuel was crowned by teammates with the 49ers’ most prestigious honor, the Len Eshmont Award, to go along with his Pro Bowl and All-Pro accolades.
Samuel, the receiver, produced 1,405 yards, six touchdowns and an NFL-best 18.2 yards per reception last regular season, while missing just one game (groin injury). He had 10 catches, 154 yards and a touchdown in their three playoff games.
Samuel, the rusher, churned out 365 yards and those eight touchdowns on 59 carries in the regular season, plus 27 more carries in the playoffs for 137 yards and a touchdown.
Samuel, the all-purpose threat, chipped in with a game-tying touchdown pass in the regular-season finale at L.A. that clinched a playoff berth, and he returned the second-half kickoff 45 yards to spark the 49ers’ comeback at Green Bay in the divisional playoffs. His 9-yard run on third-and-7 set up Robbie Gould’s winning field goal in Lambeau.
Not a bad season, especially after a truncated 2020 that saw him miss nine games (foot, hamstring, COVID-19 list) and produce just 391 receiving yards and 26 rushing yards.
As a second-round rookie from South Carolina, his dual-threat ability was put to use, so 2021 was no anomaly. He had three touchdown receptions and three touchdown runs in 2019 (802 receiving yards, 159 rushing), then in that postseason run to the Super Bowl, he added 127 receiving and 102 rushing yards.
Samuel’s discontent with the 49ers – or, at least, his public desire to play elsewhere – came as a surprise. The 49ers Faithful guessed this past week at his motives. Reports suggested he no longer wanted the physical toll running backs endure (last year, he scoffed at such a notion and said he was the one who doles out hits). He also shot down on social media that this wasn’t about any desire to play closer to his native South Carolina or preferred offseason locales in Miami and Houston.
Teammates brushed it off as the NFL’s “business side,” suggesting these were contract talks, which the 49ers typically draw out until training camp later in the summer.
“But it’s not a secret what Deebo means to our football team,” right tackle Mike McGlinchey added. “He’s one of our best players, if not the best player. He deserves everything coming his way.”
Samuel was entering the final season of his rookie deal, with a $4 million salary for 2022. He became eligible for an extension at last season’s end, as did other members of the 2019 draft class, including defensive end Nick Bosa, whose fifth-year option for 2023 was exercised to buy more time hammering out a long-term contract.