49ers Interested in NFL League Leader From 2021: Report

Ray-Ray McCloud

Getty Ray-Ray McCloud during a January 3, 2022 game versus the Browns.

The free agency period will hit the ground running next week, March 16, and expect the San Francisco 49ers to be among the active on the spending and clearing spree as they aim to build off of their NFC title game appearance.

Already, the 49ers have their sights set on one league leader from this past season via Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports.

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Per Benjamin on the morning of Wednesday, March 9, San Francisco is among the interested teams for the NFL’s top return yardage specialist from last season Ray-Ray McCloud, who is an unrestricted free agent after signing a one-year, $1 million deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

McCloud’s High Interest

Benjamin anticipates what he calls “a solid market” for the 25-year-old who will be searching for his fourth NFL team in his career that began in 2018.

“A year after leading the NFL in return yardage, Steelers wide receiver and special teamer Ray-Ray McCloud is expected to have a solid market in 2022 free agency,” Benjamin wrote.

For the 49ers to try and nab the 5-foot-9, 190-pounder, S.F. will likely have to try and fend off McCloud’s last NFL employer.

“Pittsburgh has contacted McCloud’s representation to express a strong interest in re-signing the veteran, according to a source close to the situation,” Benjamin said.

But it’s not just the two playoff teams from a year ago the Steelers and the 49ers who are among the interested for the former Clemson Tiger. Benjamin says as many as six teams — from the Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions during the NFL Combine — are interested in adding McCloud, sources told Benjamin.

Benjamin adds that every interested team in McCloud have had their sights set on him before the league’s legal tampering period which begins on Monday, March 14.

Depth at Wideout Likely to be Addressed by 49ers

While Deebo Samuel put together a season to remember and introduced the “wideback” position, plus while Brandon Aiyuk hit a new stride toward the end of the season, the 49ers still face question marks at the position.

Depth is a concern with names like Mohamed Sanu, Trent Sherfield and Richie James all unrestricted free agents come March 16. Jauan Jennings is on the free agent list on the exclusive rights side. Most NFL mock drafts has the 49ers taking a wide receiver as one of their nine selections.

Another area needing improvement? The special teams side, which minus the Packers road playoff win was a struggling unit throughout the season. Samuel had the best return average at 25 yards per kick return, but he only retrieved three kickoffs. Trenton Cannon took the most kickoffs at 16 and averaged just 20.5 yards per return. JaMycal Hasty followed with an average of 16.1 yards per return. Aiyuk took most of the punt return duties, but averaged just 7.2 yards per return.

McCloud had higher averages compared to three members of the 49ers: A 9.7 yard average per punt return and racked up 22.2 yards per kickoff return. He went on to lead the league in both punt return yardage and combined return yardage.

McCloud could add a needed slot target should the 49ers make a run at him. When teammate Juju Smith-Schuster went down, McCloud took over and went to produce a career-high 39 receptions for 277 yards and produced 18 first downs per Pro Football Reference.

McCloud happens to also have executed a Kyle Shanahan-type play in 2020 with the Steelers.

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