Just when we thought March was a zany and historic time for the signing/trade period, there’s still some notable names out and about now that the draft smoke has cleared.
And one marquee name is still searching for an NFL home in 2022 — plus is familiar with Kyle Shanahan and his offense. Pro Football Focus’s Ben Linsey wrote down 10 free agent signings “that make the most sense” following the draft and the 49ers were mentioned as a possibility for one two-time All-Pro.
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Julio Jones Now ‘More Attainable’
Linsey writes down Julio Jones — the multiple All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowler — as a potential late free agent addition in the Bay Area.
“The Deebo Samuel trade request creates a clear need for additional receiving talent in San Francisco,” Linsey first wrote. “The team drafted SMU wide receiver Danny Gray in the back end of the third round in addition to signing Ray-Ray McCloud in free agency, but it’s hard to say that’s enough.”
Regarding Samuel, there are signs that a fence is getting mended. Following countless of trade talks, plus the New York Jets and the Detroit Lions making their pitch to try to land the 2021 All-Pro via draft trade, Samuel has “re-followed” the 49ers’ Instagram account.
Furthermore, the 49ers pulled a day two draft stunner by selecting Tyrion Davis-Price at No. 93 overall in the third round, when he was projected to go no higher than the fourth and fall toward the sixth. Shanahan, however, told reporters following the second day of the draft that taking the LSU Tigers 1,000-yard rusher was meant to alleviate a backfield load off Samuel.
“I thought Deebo helped us do that towards the end of last year bringing that in, but you don’t want that to be just your one-two punch,” Shanahan said to reporters. “You got to bring in some other backs to do that. I do think we have some guys on roster that have a chance.”
How Will Jones Fit in Shanahan’s Offense This Time?
It’s not the first time Jones was mentioned as a 49ers possibility during the 2022 free agency period.
Josh Schrock of NBC Sports Bay Area on March 16 wrote how the 49ers “could finally land” the released wide receiver who last played for the Tennessee Titans.
Jones hasn’t commanded high attention from teams needing a receiver — especially in a market that exploded with record-breaking deals for Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs plus saw Marquise “Hollywood” Brown and A.J. Brown become draft day trades. Linsey believes there’s one certain area that has lingered Jones as the reason why he’s not in high demand.
“At 33 years old with consistent appearances on the injury report, Jones is no longer in the ‘best receiver in the league’ conversation like he was for most of his NFL career,” Linsey wrote. “But that doesn’t mean he can’t still be a productive contributor to an offense. Last season, his 1.76 receiving yards per route run with the Titans ranked 30th out of 114 wide receivers with 200 routes run.”
Perhaps this could be a Mohamed Sanu situation for Jones. Sanu arrived to S.F. as a former Shanahan receiver but was not even considered the fourth option in the air attack. Should Samuel earn most of his reps as a wideout, he’ll reform a tandem with Brandon Aiyuk, the resigned Jauan Jennings and now have rookie Danny Gray alongside them.
But as Linsey points out, not only has Jones’ production began to decline, his value has also lowered — signifying that he could come in with a workable deal.
“The 49ers didn’t reunite Julio with Kyle Shanahan last offseason when he was available, but the price might be more attainable for San Francisco this time around,” Linsey wrote.