There’s nothing quite like some offseason contract drama with cryptic social media maneuvers mixed in. It’s a classic cocktail of “what on earth is going on?”
Over the course of the last week, Deebo Samuel has removed his profile picture of himself in a 49ers jersey and removed multiple photos on his Instagram showing in him in 49ers colors.
That, understandably, has created speculation that Samuel is unhappy with the contract negotiations between his representatives and the 49ers.
NBC Sports’ Matt Maiocco joined Tolbert and Copes to discuss the situation on Monday, saying that both sides have kept the lid sealed shut on the situation.
“I don’t know where this is going or exactly why Deebo Samuel appears to be upset, but clearly he is, or at least he’s certainly willing for people or wants people to think that he’s upset, but why?” Maiocco asked. “Could it be that the 49ers just aren’t willing to give him the contract that if you line up the comps that he should get? Could it be that the 49ers have decided that, ‘Hey, we’re already paying Trent Williams and George Kittle and Fred Warner and Arik Armstead, maybe we don’t want to pay a wide receiver that much.’
“I don’t know and right now nobody is saying anything including Deebo Samuel’s representation.”
But Maiocco wondered whether the fact that Samuel played such a significant role as a running back is complicating matters.
He pointed out that wide receivers get paid as well as any non-quarterback positions besides edge rushers, while running backs don’t. The wear and tear on a running back leads to noticeably shorter careers compared to wide receivers, so teams don’t value them as highly.
While Samuel’s representation are surely positioning his positional flexibility as cause for him to be paid more, the 49ers could argue that it raises the long-term risk of injury for him, and that it’s a reason he should either be paid less or perhaps guaranteed less than he’d otherwise deserve.
Maiocco said he believes it would be a stunning departure for the 49ers not to sign Samuel to a contract extension and that his worth is likely $22 to $24 million given the standards set by other receivers around the league.
The social media moves by Samuel are a concern, though. Maiocco said he’s weighing two things in looking at the situation,
The first is that John Lynch said the 49ers plan on Samuel and Nick Bosa being part of the 49ers for a long time and that the organization has budgeted for their extensions.
The other thing he’s weighing is Kyle Shanahan saying this season that everyone has a price that the 49ers would consider trading them, Shanahan included.
He harkened back to the 49ers trading DeForest Buckner, the team’s Bill Walsh Award winner, after the 2019 season, when he was, as Maiocco deemed him, the best player on that team. Is it possible the 49ers might view Samuel in that same vein?
“That enabled them to re-sign Arik Armstead and Jimmie Ward and maybe some other players,” Maiocco said. “So if you’re in that same situation as the 49ers — and I don’t know the answer to this question — are they thinking along the lines of the Chiefs and the Packers that hey, they love those guys they traded away, just as the 49ers love Deebo Samuel, but does it make business sense for them, if they can get something big in return, to go ahead and deal him and the money saved can go into other areas?
“Especially when you look at the wide receiver position now where it just it seems like more than ever, there are quality receivers coming out every year in the draft.”
Still, it would be shocking for the 49ers to trade away Samuel and would seem to fans and players that the 49ers aren’t bargaining in good faith. But he can’t rule out a trade scenario.
“I think you start to lose faith of the fan base in the locker room if you’re in essence promising that guys will be around and then they’re not around,” Maiocco said. “So I still have a very difficult time believing that the organizational plan is to move on from Deebo Samuel.
“All that said, I still can’t figure out exactly what’s going on and what has crossed Deebo Samuel’s radar to make him take that that measure of basically handing the 49ers back their letterman’s jacket.”
Oh, and one last thing.
Jimmy Garoppolo is still on the roster. There is, at least theoretically, a situation where Garoppolo is on the 49ers’ roster this season and Samuel is not. Maiocco said he’s thought about that
“I mean, if they make that decision to keep Jimmy Garoppolo as a backup quarterback at $25 million and not re-sign Deebo Samuel, well, that’s one for the books right there,” Maiocco said.
Listen to the full interview below. You can listen to every KNBR interview on our podcast page at knbr.com/podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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