With the San Francisco 49ers squad reported to Santa Clara, California and training camp just about underway, the time for new additions is running out.
That hasn’t stopped San Francisco, who have made the signings of tight end Jordan Reed and defensive end Dion Jordan official in the past week or so, strengthening a team that already made the Super Bowl the previous season.
The 49ers aren’t finished yet, either, with the report from NFL’s Ian Rapaport that the team is bringing in former Dallas Cowboy and Los Angeles Rams receiver Tavon Austin to the team’s facilities for a workout.
Austin has had some seriously explosive moments in his career, most notably as a kick and punt returner, which is actually an area that the 49ers could use a bit of a spark.
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Since being selected by the then-St. Louis Rams in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Austin has been a player to watch, albeit his production over his career probably doesn’t match being the eighth overall pick of that NFL Draft.
Austin impressed in his rookie year, racking up 418 yards as well as catching four touchdowns in his first year in the league, and eventually walked out of the Rams with 1,133 yards over three seasons and nine receiving touchdowns.
However, Austin’s specialty of returning already began to make its mark, housing a punt return each of his first three seasons.
Since, the former West Virginia Mountaineer hasn’t found the endzone, but remained a consistent option for the Rams and the Cowboys as a punt returner who can also be used as a kick returner when needed.
Austin never received a start while in Dallas, but did bring down 317 receiving yards and three touchdowns, while also proving to be an effective rushing option when given the chance, rushing for 112 yards on just 12 attempts over the two seasons as a Cowboy.
Austin With the 49ers
As Rapaport mentions, the 49ers reportedly want Austin on the team, rather than just exploring the option.
That doesn’t mean Austin doesn’t have something to prove, but it also shows that the 49ers look at the injury and ensuing departure of corner and returner D.J. Reed is something the team needs to address sooner rather than later.
A big part of this even goes beyond Reed, as the 49ers have to be patient with wide receiver Deebo Samuel’s jones fracture injury he suffered back in June, the same injury that led to several surgeries and a completely absent 2019 season for fellow receiver Trent Taylor.
With Reed gone to the Seattle Seahawks and Samuel currently on the sideline, the 49ers need insurance at the returner position while also adding a guy who can come in and immediately offer something on kick offs and punts while also potentially lining up at receiver depending on Samuel.
This is not to mention that head coach Kyle Shanahan will likely enjoy having a versatile weapon like Austin as an option. If 49ers fans know anything, it’s that the 49ers HC will happily scheme for a receiver like Austin.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.