Even though the draft is less than a month away, the San Francisco 49ers are still pursuing veteran help to bolster their roster. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the 49ers announced on Tuesday that they reunited with veteran wide receiver Brandon Lloyd.
Financial terms of the agreement were not made readily available, yet one can bet Lloyd’s one-year deal will pay him $955,000 (veteran minimum) in 2014.
The move is surprising based on the fact Lloyd was out of football for a year, but the 49ers are desperate for wide receiver help. Outside of Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, their depth chart is littered with unproven players like Quinton Patton, Devon Wylie, Jonathan Baldwin and David Reed.
That’s where Lloyd’s value skyrockets.
Despite being 32 years of age, he has experience and a proven track record to make an immediate impact. No, he won’t be the No. 1 pass-catcher he once was for the Denver Broncos, but he will be a complementary player who will move the chains and make spectacular catches from time to time.
This is good news for the 49ers, because their No. 3 and No. 4 wide receivers were atrocious in 2013. On 703 offensive snaps last year, Mario Manningham, Kyle Williams, Kassim Osgood, Marlon Moore, Patton and Baldwin combined for 283 yards receiving.
It’s safe to say Lloyd could have easily garnered more receiving yards and catches (29) than those six players did with a similar snap counts. Fortunately for San Francisco, he won’t have to.
The Niners won’t make the same mistake they did last year. They will head into the 2014 season with improved depth at one of the most crucial positions in football. In addition to adding Lloyd, look for the 49ers to add two playmaking speedsters in the draft.
Odds are, one of the two draftees will be a Day 1 pick, and the other will be a Day 2 selection.
Just like Boldin and Crabtree, Lloyd isn’t going to take the top off of a defense. This, in turn, means San Francisco will be looking to draft the same type of wideout it was looking to draft a month ago.
Ultimately, Lloyd’s presence on the roster only effects the team’s immediate future, which spells bad news for Baldwin and Osgood. Here’s what Bill Williamson of ESPN.com had to say when he addressed the Lloyd signing and who could be effected by it:
Kassim Osgood and Jonathan Baldwin. If Lloyd makes the team, Baldwin will likely be out. The team re-signed Osgood this offseason because he is a huge part of the special teams. But the 49ers will likely not keep more than six receivers.
If Lloyd makes the team, it will be him, Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Quinton Patton and likely a rookie. Osgood would be the sixth man and perhaps become vulnerable, depending on needs at other positions.
Williamson is right. Under head coach Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers rarely keep more than six receivers. If we assume Lloyd makes the team and San Francisco drafts two pass-catchers, Osgood’s roster spot is in just as much trouble as Baldwin’s.
The notion of the 49ers dumping Osgood for Lloyd may be far-fetched to some, yet it’s clear that Osgood’s production is easier to replace than Lloyd’s. Finding a late-round pick to cover punts and kicks at a high level is something NFL teams do on an annual basis.
It’s not like Osgood is the special teams ace pundits make him out to be.
According to the analysts at Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Osgood finished the 2013 season with a minus-five special teams grade. He amassed a minus-2.5 grade on punts and a minus-one grade on kickoffs.
Sure, he makes the occasional splash play when he blocks a punt or downs a punt inside the 20-yard line, yet you have to remember that’s one play out of 100. It’s easy to remember his game-changing play and easy to forget his missed assignment down the sideline.
That’s not to say the 49ers see Osgood the same way the folks at PFF do. San Francisco might put a higher value on special teams players who make the occasional game-changing play.
Nevertheless, a player’s consistent nature on the field goes a long way in terms of evaluation, which could pave the way for a younger, more cost-friendly option on special teams.
The Lloyd signing raises quite a few questions when you put the move under a microscope, but the truth is those questions will remain unanswered until training camp is in full swing.
At this point, there’s only one thing we do know: Lloyd is a welcome addition, but the 49ers still need speed at the wide receiver position. And a guy like Brandin Cooks, Odell Beckham Jr. or Martavis Bryant could provide that speed on draft day.
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