Deebo Samuel Rumors: 49ers Star Doesn't Want to Be WR/RB Hybrid Amid Trade Request

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVApril 20, 2022

INGLEWOOD, CA - JANUARY 30: Deebo Samuel #19 of the San Francisco 49ers heads to the end zone on a 44-yard touchdown catch during the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on January 30, 2022 in Inglewood, California. The Rams defeated the 49ers 20-17. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

On Wednesday, ESPN's Jeff Darlington reported that superstar wide receiver Deebo Samuel told him he's requested a trade away from the San Francisco 49ers. 

Why would Samuel want out of San Francisco after a career year in which the Niners reached the NFC Championship Game? NFL Network's Tom Pelissero provided one potential reason on the Rich Eisen Show, citing Samuel's potential issues with his role:

Rich Eisen Show @RichEisenShow

Deebo's trade request became public just after we hung up with <a href="https://twitter.com/TomPelissero?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TomPelissero</a> in our first hour so we had to call him back to explain what went wrong in San Francisco:<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NFL?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NFL</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NFLDraft?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NFLDraft</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FTTB?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FTTB</a> <a href="https://t.co/lveW0WP1fD">pic.twitter.com/lveW0WP1fD</a>

"It sounds like there's multiple layers to this. But certainly one of them is Deebo Samuel wants to be a receiver and not a receiver/running back. His rushing attempts were significantly up last season from where they've been in the past. We all know that he's a really, really physical player, but there probably are some concerns here about longevity. The counterpoint to that, of course, is that part of the reason that Deebo Samuel is so valuable is because he's versatile. ... But in the big picture, it sounds like the role is part of the reason that Deebo wants to play somewhere else, where he may just be a true wide receiver and potentially tack on some years to his career."

That mirrored an earlier report from NFL Network's Ian Rapoport: 

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

From NFL Now: For more than a week, the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/49ers?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#49ers</a> have been dealing with a major issue in their WRs room, as Deebo Samuel requested a trade. <a href="https://t.co/PDuN2TsjHz">pic.twitter.com/PDuN2TsjHz</a>

Samuel, 26, was spectacular in the 2021 season, catching 77 passes for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns while adding 365 rushing yards and another eight touchdowns on 59 rushing attempts. 

In his first two seasons in the NFL, he had a total of 22 rushing attempts. 

cynthia frelund @cfrelund

Some really interesting <a href="https://twitter.com/NextGenStats?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NextGenStats</a> on Deebo’s use last season: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/nfl?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#nfl</a> <a href="https://t.co/ipgzcIulXm">pic.twitter.com/ipgzcIulXm</a>

Mike Clay @MikeClayNFL

This is the answer to "his value comes from the hybrid/RB role", which isn't true. Versatility is nice, but he was producing elite WR numbers before the role change.

Ed Werder @WerderEdESPN

From <a href="https://twitter.com/ESPNStatsInfo?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ESPNStatsInfo</a>: WR Deebo Samuel accounted for 28% of his the 49ers scrimmage yards in 2021, the 4th-highest rate in the NFL after Jonathan Taylor (37%), Najee Harris (31%) and Cooper Kupp (31%).

Part of that was Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan utilizing Samuel's unique versatility and playmaking ability with the ball in his hands. But some of that usage likely came out of necessity, too. 

The team's main running backs—Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson Jr. and Trey Sermon—combined to miss 22 games due to injury. Meanwhile, Raheem Mostert suffered a season-ending knee injury after only two carries. The team was beat up at the position all season long. 

It's hard to imagine the Niners wouldn't tweak their usage of Samuel if helped them keep him long-term. They certainly aren't required to trade him this offseason.

Jeff Howe @jeffphowe

Word around the NFL is the 49ers would still prefer to keep Deebo Samuel, who has requested a trade. That’s not exactly surprising. But this is a very fluid situation. Deebo, Lynch and Shanahan have had a good relationship. Draft is still a week out. Teams will keep calling.

Matt Maiocco @MaioccoNBCS

If Deebo Samuel has an issue with how he was used ... 1) He and Kyle Shanahan have a good relationship and can easily work it out to satisfy both sides; 2) His WR/RB role is what makes him unique and more attractive to any team willing to trade for him and pay him big money.

While Samuel's role may be contributing to his unhappiness, something deeper also might be at play. Divergent valuations on a long-term extension could be playing a part in his trade request.

One thing is certain, though: If Samuel is on the trade market, a number of teams will come calling. Dynamic playmakers at wide receiver are incredibly valuable, and teams can find unique ways to get him the ball without playing him as a running back.