Brandon Lloyd is returning to where it all began.
The 32-year-old wide receiver signed a one-year deal with the San Francisco 49ers, which just so happened to be the team that originally drafted him in the fourth round of the 2003 NFL draft. Lloyd suited up for San Francisco from 2003-05 and tallied 105 receptions for 1,510 yards and 13 touchdowns during that span.
His best year in the Bay Area was 2005 when he registered a team-high 48 catches, 773 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns.
The fact that the contract was only for one year is the critical component from the 49ers’ perspective. Although Lloyd has certainly proven his talent throughout his NFL career, he did not play last season after he was cut by the New England Patriots. In fact, there were some rumors that he wasn’t the best locker room presence, either.
Still, there is very little risk involved with a one-year deal.
Lloyd isn’t that far removed from his fantastic 2010 season in Denver when he led the entire NFL in receiving yards with 1,448 and was fourth in touchdown catches with 11. What’s more, he totaled 74 catches for 911 yards and four touchdowns in New England in 2012—his last full season on the field.
The 49ers have Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree on the roster, but they need depth at the wide receiver position. In Lloyd, they get someone who has a successful track record in the league and isn’t afraid to go across the middle and make catches in traffic.
Jim Harbaugh discussed the need for another pass-catcher recently with reporters in comments that come via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com:
“A third guy who can get open and make plays, another option for the quarterback to go to, a chance to attack all areas of the field. A playmaker. That’s what we’re looking for.”
Lloyd doesn’t have the speed to blow past defenders, especially now that he is north of 30 years old, but ESPN Stats & Info pointed out that Lloyd could still be capable of stretching the field vertically:
Will Brandon Lloyd help 49ers? Though he didn't play in '13, he was the league-leader in rec on passes 15+ yds downfield as recently as 2010— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 15, 2014
Will Brandon Lloyd tally at least 50 catches for the 49ers in 2014?
If anything, the 49ers know that Lloyd can make plays over the middle and take some of the focus of the opposing secondary away from Crabtree, Boldin and Vernon Davis. He could also make teams pay when they try to stuff the box to stop San Francisco’s potent rushing attack.
It will be interesting to see if this signing impacts the 49ers’ plan of attack when it comes to the upcoming NFL draft.
Many commentators believe they could look to the wide receiver position with their first-round pick, especially since there are so many potentially elite options there in this year’s class. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller cautions anyone who thinks that the signing of Lloyd could alter those plans:
#49ers signing Brandon Lloyd should change nothing about their draft plans. Speed WR3/4 still a need.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) April 15, 2014
Teams look to the long-term future in the draft, especially early, and San Francisco is bringing Lloyd in as a short-term solution. After all, we are talking about a team that was an outstretched Richard Sherman hand away from being in the Super Bowl, so one or two additional pieces could put the 49ers right where they need to be.
Lloyd may very well be that piece, but even if he's not, it's only a one-year commitment.
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