Analyst Says ‘Fascinating Signing’ Will Have Bigger Impact for 49ers

Brandon Aiyuk Deebo Samuel

Getty Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel could get some rare offensive help this fall.

The San Francisco 49ers faced a need to improve in two areas during the 2022 offseason.

They addressed the need through someone who isn’t considered a household name in the NFL landscape and hasn’t made a Pro Bowl, but has been hailed as a “fascinating signing” and is one of three new additions predicted to be more impactful than expected in his new surroundings with the 49ers.

Joe Tansey of Bleacher Report revealed his list of impactful free agents on the 49ers on Wednesday, June 15. And he believes Ray-Ray McCloud will make “a bigger offensive impact than expected.”

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Why McCloud is More Impactful Than Advertised

Why is Tansey a believer in the veteran return ace? Who comes over via the Pittsburgh Steelers?

“Ray-Ray McCloud is a fascinating signing from a depth and special teams perspective,” Tansey first wrote. “The 25-year-old signed with the 49ers after two years with the Pittsburgh Steelers where he was a depth piece on offense and a primary return man. He recorded 1,422 return yards and 665 receiving yards during his time there.”

The Steelers weren’t just plugging him near the goal line on the kickoff return team. They have used him on reverses like this one from 2020:

But he became known in the Steel City for these kind of plays:

“At the moment, McCloud has a small role inside the 49ers offense and a large part to play on the special teams unit,” Tansey said.

But, “McCloud showed progress as a pass-catcher in 2021 with career highs of 38 receptions and 367 yards inside a Steelers offense that was loaded with young receiving talent.”

That offense Tansey is referring to featured Diontae Johnson and his team-high 107 catches for 1,161 yards and 8 touchdowns. Running back Najee Harris added 74 catches out of the backfield. McCloud ended up finishing fifth on the Steelers in receptions with 39.

How Can McCloud be Utilized?

McCloud will be walking into a loaded receiver unit that made some additional changes via the draft through picking Danny Gray in the third round.

There’s also this movement that impacts the 49ers greatly: Deebo Samuel making his 49ers return for mandatory minicamp, though Samuel was spotted more working out on the sidelines.

Samuel’s return and Gray’s arrival adds to a receiver room that already has the fast-improving Brandon Aiyuk and the resigned Jauan Jennings. Could this diminish McCloud’s chances of lining up out wide?

“The Clemson product could play a smaller offensive role if Samuel stays because the 49ers need another deep threat to keep opposing defenses on their toes,” Tansey wrote.

One reason why Gray was selected was to stretch the field for incoming QB1 Trey Lance behind center. But McCloud also has a previous life of a deep threat from his Death Valley years:

If Gray’s not the deep threat option, perhaps McCloud can pick up the load there for the 49ers. Tansey concludes that McCloud’s potential in the 49ers’ system sparks intrigue.

“McCloud’s ceiling is potentially high if he continues to work on his receiving skills on top of the returning expertise he has shown during his time in the NFL,” he said.

And, per The Athletic’s David Lombardi on Wednesday afternoon, head coach Kyle Shanahan is already giving off the feeling that McCloud will be inserted into the 49ers’ offensive plans.

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