5 Free-Agent Options for the 49ers to Replace Michael Crabtree
On Wednesday, May 22, 2013, it was reported that San Francisco 49ers star receiver Michael Crabtree suffered a torn Achilles, per Mike Garafolo of USA Today. This is a shocking development and a colossal blow to the reigning NFC champions.
In what was a milestone campaign for the former first-rounder from Texas Tech, Crabtree thrived in a way with new quarterback Colin Kaepernick that can only be described as metaphysical.
After three years of mediocrity, No. 15 made a quantum leap of his game, leading many to believe this was just the start of a marvelous career. This injury will be a significant setback for Crabtree, who might miss the 2013 season.
If Michael Crabtree is out with torn Achilles, time is NOW for AJ Jenkins and Quinton Patton to come alive. Need Mario Manningham back soon
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) May 22, 2013
Consequently, this puts 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff in an arduous position with OTAs already underway. The organization was counting on having their players—particularly Crabtree, who was a key component.
Going forward, San Francisco may look to add an extra veteran body in camp.
Before you proceed through the following slides, be forewarned, the crop of remaining free agents isn’t pretty—especially for wide receivers. The well has pretty much dried up, which has left a group of questionable pickups.
Regardless, the 49ers are out a wide receiver and necessitate a fill-in to one degree or another.
Drafted: Round 4, Pick 124 (2003)
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 200 lbs.
Last Team: New England Patriots (2012)
Brandon Lloyd started his career in San Francisco in 2003, amassing 1,510 yards in three seasons before moving into his first of many stops.
He has been a very productive receiver, but he's an unsexy signing from a front-office perspective because of his journeyman label. The first question that always comes up is, “Why did all of these other teams let him get away?”
The truth is, Lloyd has been steadily productive for a decade, which is difficult to do in the NFL. He has also become known for his spectacular catching ability, often making great high-wire grabs near the sideline.
Moreover, Lloyd nearly had a 1,000-yard season in New England only a year ago (74 catches, 911 yards, four touchdowns). He was also named an All-Pro as recently as 2010, having led the league in receiving that year.
Despite being a 10-year vet, he still has the legs to be productive and would come over with less than 6,000 yards of mileage on him. And much like Charles Woodson signing with Oakland, Lloyd may want to end his career where it all began.
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 85 (2009)
Height/Weight: 6’7”, 230 lbs.
Last Team: New York Giants (2012)
Right off the bat, Ramses Barden does not have the statistics teams look for in free agents, but he certainly has potential. Clearing 6’6” and possessing 34.5" arms, Barden would bring an element to the wide receiver position that the 49ers lack.
Barden originally entered the league as an intriguing prospect, but wound up buried on New York’s stacked receiving unit. Along with Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks, Steve Smith, he was already the fourth/fifth option.
Once Smith moved on to Philadelphia, a shifty young receiver from UMass, Victor Cruz, stepped up to the plate in a big way. Then the Giants drafted Rueben Randle (LSU) in 2012, which made the lengthy wideout obsolete.
Barden played well—not exceptional—in fill-in duties for New York, but was not really needed outside of providing depth. With only 394 career receiving yards and zero touchdowns, the Giants allowed him to walk in the offseason instead of extending his deal.
In San Francisco, Barden would not step in as a starter, but he could potentially add to the committee that will be working in unison to replace Crabtree.
Drafted: Round 2, Pick 36 (2001)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 188 lbs.
Last Team: Miami Dolphins (2012)
Although it seems like a long time since he’s been out of football, Chad Johnson was part of a roster in 2012. His stint with the Dolphins came to a screeching halt after an off-the-field incident which led to his arrest, per NY Daily News.
Johnson has grabbed several headlines since he’s been out of football, including a recent arrest for violating probation on May 20. Even worse, Johnson is heading into his late-30s and is a bit quirky, to say the least.
In what was the height of his career, Johnson achieved over 10,000 yards in 10 seasons with Cincinnati, including six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. For nearly a decade, he was one of the most prolific pass-catchers in the league.
Johnson is now fresh off two failed stints in the AFC East. The last game he played was in a Patriots uniform, where he rarely saw the field despite averaging a career-high 18.4 yards per reception on 15 grabs.
From a stylistic perspective, Johnson fits the spread offense that San Francisco has built. He was always a quick, shifty receiver, working well in small spaces—though he had difficultly grasping concepts in New England.
This is a hit or miss, and honestly, might not be worth the trouble.
Drafted: Round 2, Pick 50 (2004)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 200 lbs.
Last Team: New Orleans Saints (2012)
Like Brandon Lloyd, this signing also makes a great deal of sense for San Francisco, which is now in need of veteran leadership and a winning pedigree. Devery Henderson may not be a perennial 1,000-yard receiver, but he is dependable and has the aptitude to produce in a high-flying offense.
From 2004-2012, Henderson made several spectacular grabs in New Orleans, operating as one of Drew Brees’ primary receivers for six seasons. In a demanding Saints offense, he delivered for the better part of a decade.
Moreover, Henderson can generate long plays down the field, which would ultimately provide a unique rotational option for the Niners. He is also sure-handed and a clean route-runner.
This is a player that would likely impact the 49ers' receiving corps if he were given an opportunity.
Drafted: Round 3, Pick 79 (2007)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 214 lbs.
Last Team: Jacksonville Jaguars (2011)
Mike Sims-Walker is one of the younger of the aforementioned receivers, which is something he has going for him. His NFL résumé is not terribly lengthy, but there was inspiring output in a short period of time.
In his career to date, Sims-Walker has 134 receptions, 1,798 yards and 14 touchdowns in 44 games played.
Unfortunately, the receiver has disappeared from the league by being in bad situations, whether succumbing to injury or being in a shaky franchise. His five NFL seasons have been spent in St. Louis and Jacksonville twice.
Sims-Walker came into this league with potential, having run a 4.35 at the NFL combine.
He is young, physically prepared to play and may respond well to good coaching and a winning environment. He was last reported working out for the Miami Dolphins in August, per Rotoworld.
Free-Agent Wide Receivers (Updates via Rotoworld)
- In addition to the eight pending charges he is facing, free agent Titus Young has been accused of domestic violence by the mother of his 9-month-old son, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
- Free agent Titus Young has been medically cleared to appear in court, and has been charged with felony theft stemming from a May 4 incident at a convenience store in addition to his other charges, via Jason Cole on Twitter.
- Free agent Titus Young's father says his son has a brain disorder and needs help, per Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News.
- Lee Evans told the Associated Press that he's hoping to return to the NFL next season.
- Coach Mike Mularkey explained that the Jaguars released Lee Evans Sunday because he can't play like he used to, via Florida Times Union.
- The Florida Times Union expects Lee Evans to compete with Cecil Shorts for the Jaguars' No. 4 wide receiver job.
- Free agent Deion Branch is unlikely to be re-signed by the Patriots after the team drafted two receivers this weekend, per Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston.
- Free agent Randy Moss is still undecided on if he wants to continue his playing career, per Mike Freeman on Twitter.
- CBS Sports' Mike Freeman reports teams are interested in free agent Randy Moss, but he has gone silent on his plans for 2013.
- One of free agent Randy Moss' 49ers teammates thinks the receiver will play one more season, via CBS Sports.
Dylan DeSimone is the San Francisco 49ers' lead columnist for Bleacher Report. A former NFL journalist and fantasy football writer for SB Nation, Niners Nation and SB Nation Bay Area, Dylan now writes for B/R.
To talk football with Dylan, follow him on Twitter @DeSimone80.