Jeremy Kerley is staying in San Francisco.
Arguably the team’s most surprising and productive player in 2016, Kerley agreed to a three-year, $10.5 million deal from 49ers GM John Lynch. He earned every bit of that contract.
“We are very excited to be able to keep a player and teammate like Jeremy in red and gold,” said Lynch. “As we evaluated the roster, his production on the field really impressed us and we believe he is a great fit for our scheme. As we learned more and more about him, it became obvious his teammates have a great deal of respect for Jeremy as well. He is a true pro who is an asset to this team on offense, special teams and in the locker room.”
Former GM Trent Baalke acquired Kerley in a trade with the Detroit Lions in exchange for Brandon Thomas on Aug. 29. It was the most high profile acquisition the 49ers made at the wide receiver position — and Kerley had less than two weeks to learn the playbook.
Despite all the late night cramming sessions at the team hotel in Santa Clara, the 28-year-old came out of the gates firing. He caught seven receptions for 61 yards in a Week 1 Monday Night Football win over the Los Angeles Rams. Both Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick found comfort with Kerley’s route running underneath. He finished with 64 catches for 667 yards and three touchdowns. Until the bitter end of a 2-14 season, Kerley defended Chip Kelly’s coaching style, which he greatly benefited from.
The news of re-signing Kerley was not surprising but it could eliminate some familiar names on the market. As we’ve been documenting for quite a bit, head coach Kyle Shanahan has a track record of working well with smaller, shiftier receivers. Taylor Gabriel (second round tender), Aldrick Robinson and Andrew Hawkins — all on the open market — have all had career best production under Shanahan’s direction. Gabriel and Robinson are restricted, it would appear as if these players could now be off the radar. It’s not far-fetched to expect a similar career-best results from Kerley under Shanahan.
Lynch promised reporters and told 49ers fans to ‘stay awake’ once free agency begins March 9, but the team has already been the most active spender on the open market. Nickel back K’Waun Williams and defensive lineman Earl Mitchell both chose the 49ers over p[layoff contenders teams as Denver, Atlanta, Seattle and Miami. Clearly, conversations being had in meeting rooms and over text are going positively for the 49ers. Re-signing Kerley before he could find out his true market value is another affirmation of the new regimes effective approach
“We need players,” Lynch said on Thursday to beat reporters. “Everyone says the best way to go in (is to draft) the best players, but sometimes you can’t do that. You need certain positions. And we don’t want to be in that position everywhere. So there are certain things we have high on our priority list to get accomplished. We’re going to be aggressive in getting those guys.”
In a KNBR interview earlier in February, Shanahan said he was focusing more on free agency while Lynch handled the draft responsibilities. Alshon Jeffery and Pierre Garcon are two of the bigger names the 49ers are rumored to add at wide receiver, and I heard at the NFL combine there’s more interest in Garcon — at the right price — than there is for Jeffery.
So don’t go taking a nap like a did after arriving back in the Bay Area from the NFL Combine on a red eye. I didn’t stay awake and a missed a free agent acquisition. Cash is going to continue to fly from the salary cap bank — and that’s a great thing.