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The 49ers will not pick up Pierre Garcon’s contract option after two injury-plagued seasons, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
Garcon, who will turn 33 by the start of the 2019 season, signed a five-year, $47.5-million contract with the 49ers in 2017. He was set to make $5.65 million in 2019. He will count $8.28 million against the cap, and the 49ers will take a $7.2 million cap hit in dead money.
Garcon’s release is the latest in a series of cost-cutting moves. The 49ers have also parted ways with veteran nose tackle Earl Mitchell and backup offensive tackle Garry Gilliam to clear cap space and present opportunities to younger players in waiting.
Garcon was Kyle Shanahan’s most prominent wide receiver signing in his first two years as the 49ers head coach. Garcon, who enjoyed the best season of his career under Shanahan in Washington, came to San Francisco as a reliable, productive, durable player. That didn’t hold true with the 49ers. Garcon played in eight games in each of his two seasons with San Francisco. He suffered a season-ending neck injury in Week 9 of the 2017 season and battled knee injuries throughout 2018. After compiling 40 catches for 500 yards in 2017, Garcon regressed this past season, logging 24 catches for 286 yards. He caught one touchdown in 16 games played with the 49ers.
With Garcon out of the picture, Kendrick Bourne will immediately replace him at the “Z” spot. Bourne quietly led all 49ers wide receivers last year with 487 yards. Dante Pettis also periodically played the position in 2018, though he mainly played the “X” spot, where Marquise Goodwin also lines up.
The 49ers will turn to a young, largely unproven receiving corps. Marquise Goodwin is the veteran of the group. Kendrick Bourne and Trent Taylor enter their third NFL seasons, and Dante Pettis and Richie James return for their second years. The upcoming wide receiver free agent class isn’t particularly deep, but the receiver class in April’s draft is considered the strongest in several years.
The 49ers have spent the early offseason period parting ways with expensive, expendable veterans. The team’s next decision is whether to retain linebacker Malcolm Smith, who is scheduled to make about $4 million in 2019. He missed all of 2017 with a torn pectoral. He battled achilles and hamstring injuries throughout an injury-plagued 2018 season in which he played in 12 games and started just five.