It is a great time to be a star wide receiver in the NFL. This offseason has been filled with massive contract extensions given to some of the league’s most talented pass-catchers. Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, D.J. Metcalf, Terry McLaurin, A.J. Brown and Stefon Diggs have all received new money in the last several months. San Francisco 49ers playmaker Deebo Samuel has now been added to that list.
Heading into his fourth NFL campaign, Samuel signed a three-year extension worth as much as $73.5 million. This resolution is an amicable compromise for both the team and the player, since Samuel had previously demanded a trade earlier this offseason. The deal comes in time for all parties to focus solely on the 2022 NFL season, and making another deep run into the playoffs.
Deebo Samuel 49ers Career
The San Francisco 49ers’ fortunes changed when they selected Samuel in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. They already had star tight end George Kittle on the roster, and a dynamic play-caller in head coach Kyle Shanahan, but needed an additional spark on offense.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was able to stay healthy in 2019, and Samuel provided the additional threat that would make defenses unsure of how to gameplan for a varied San Francisco attack. As a rookie, the former University of South Carolina star caught 57 passes for 802 yards and three touchdowns.
While those are solid statistics for a rookie, Samuel’s impact far exceeded the statistical production he provided as a traditional wide receiver. Shanahan would line him up all over the formation, whether that was in the backfield, or in motion. Touches would be manufactured to get the ball into his explosive hands, as Samuel would also add 159 yards on the ground with three rushing touchdowns in his first NFL campaign.
Injuries ended up slowing him down during the 2020 season, but Samuel would respond with a career season in 2021. If his versatility was sprinkled into the offense during the 2019 campaign, it was fully leaned into last year.
In 59 rushing opportunities, Samuel produced 365 yards with eight touchdowns. To put his scoring output into context, he had as many rushing scores last year as running backs Nick Chubb and Leonard Fournette. He entered the endzone more times on the ground than Dalvin Cook or Najee Harris.
The electric dual-threat star would also add 1405 receiving yards to his ledger. Whether the team thought of him as a wide receiver a running back, or a freakish combination of both, his value to the offense has never been higher.
Looking Ahead To The 2022 Season
It has been announced that the 49ers will be moving on from Garoppolo under center this year, and will give second-year player Trey Lance the starting job. This could have fascinating implications for Samuel this year.
Coming out of college, Lance was known to have one of the biggest arms of any prospect. While Garoppolo’s ability to get the ball down field was more than adequate, it seems like Lance’s could be on a special level. If that is the case, then it’s possible Samuel will be targeted well down the field, increasing his career high 11.6 yards per target from 2021.
The athleticism Lance brings to the table as a runner will also likely be a part of the 49ers offense in 2022. Given Shanahan’s creative play-calling, it would not be surprising to see Samuel in the backfield more often as part of an option offense that will be challenging for defenses to get a read on.