After one brief season, the A.J. Jenkins experiment has come to an end in San Francisco.
General manager Trent Baalke and the rest of the Niners’ front office were quick to admit that they had indeed made a mistake when they drafted the first-team All-Big Ten member in the first round of last year’s draft.
Over the course of the 2012 season, Jenkins logged 37 offensive snaps, caught zero passes on one target and was inactive for 13 regular-season contests.
Pundits were quick to call him a bust, but after one season, the label seemed a bit premature.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh was hoping Jenkins would show significant improvement during the offseason. Unfortunately for San Francisco, his same mishaps from a season ago plagued his training camp and preseason performances.
In two preseason games against the Broncos and the Chiefs, Jenkins registered one catch. Coincidentally enough, his one catch that went for 11 yards resulted in a lost fumble. That play, in its entirety, sums up his tenure as a 49er.
Baalke is hoping the move for Baldwin will provide a better return on investment.
Logically, one would think he would have to, but by no means is he a lock to make the 53-man roster. However, he does have a greater chance at making the team because of his current contract situation. According to Jason at OverTheCap.com, Baldwin’s salary for the 2013 season is fully guaranteed.
If San Francisco does cut him, its cap number will be squeezed.
It’s safe to say the 49ers will give Baldwin a long, hard look in 2013. Even though he only has 41 career grabs and two touchdowns, there are still some positive attributes to his game. The first-round pick out of Pittsburgh is 24 years young and has prototypical size and length.
Additionally, he showed signs of improvement last year as a more reliable pass-catcher.
His biggest obstacles in the NFL are ones that have haunted him since his days at Pitt. Baldwin’s route-running ability could use a shot in the arm and he often looks sluggish coming in and out of breaks.
Furthermore, he lacks a true second gear. In two years, he has reeled in a mere five receptions of over 20 yards.
Despite his shortcomings, there’s no question the second chapter of Baldwin’s career will give him the opportunity to flourish—thanks in large part to quarterback Colin Kaepernick. As a member of the Chiefs, he had to suffer through Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko, Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn.
Kaepernick is head and shoulders above those four aforementioned names.
Moreover, San Francisco has a more talented offense and top-notch wide receivers coach in John Morton. Since joining the staff, Morton has shown the required intelligence to help underachieving wideouts excel.
Case in point, Michael Crabtree.
Under Morton’s direction, Crabtree had the most dynamic season of his career in 2012. He posted career highs in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
Baldwin won’t turn into Crabtree, but he will be given a favorable chance to succeed. Right now, the 49ers’ depth chart is wide open after Anquan Boldin. Expect the newly acquired receiver to push Kyle Williams, Quinton Patton and Austin Collie for quality reps.
Don’t count on Baldwin learning a multitude of spots right away. More than likely, he will only learn the split end and flanker positions. He has proven that he isn't a threat in the slot, which will generally be occupied by Collie and Boldin.
The trade is a win-win for both teams. Kansas City has rid itself of a player the new regime had no interest in and San Francisco is able to recoup something from its disaster of a pick.
Even if neither player pans out, both organizations are now free of any black cloud hanging over their head.
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