On Thursday night, with star receiver Brandon Aiyuk sidelined with a shoulder injury, the 49ers turned to rookie sixth-round pick Ronnie Bell out of Michigan. And Bell came through, making two catches, including San Francisco’s first touchdown.
After the game, coach Kyle Shanahan praised Bell, saying, “We’ve been real happy with Ronnie. Thought he was ready for the moment. I thought it was a challenge for him just on a short week getting all the game plan together, especially his first time going through that. But I’ll see when I see the tape, but I thought he’d stepped it up and played real well.”
The 49ers are stocked all over the field, including at wide receiver, where Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel star and Jajuan Jennings has been solid. Tight end George Kittle is a de facto receiver, and Christian McCaffrey is arguably the best pass-catching back in the NFL.
And yet, maybe they could do more. The 49ers have a league-high trove of cap space, and designs on a Super Bowl championship. Perhaps, they could turn to their longtime cross-conference nemesis, the Raiders, for an addition.
That’s the suggestion of the folks at Bleacher Report, who see Raiders receiver Hunter Renfrow as a potentially good fit in San Francisco, noting that, “Renfrow would be great in Kyle Shanahan’s spacing-based passing attack.”
Renfrow Has Struggled in Las Vegas
Before the October 31 trade deadline rolls around, it is very likely that Renfrow will be available. The only reason he is not actively being shopped now, it would seem, is that he has been a good soldier to date. As he said this week after practice (per ESPN), “I’m just trying to do my job, to be honest. Yeah. And then just trying to have a good week of practice, and then, hopefully, the ball finds me on Sundays. That’s all I can do.”
But the way Renfrow has fit with the Raiders recalls what went wrong with him last season. In 2021, he was a Pro Bowl receiver, with 103 catches and 1,036 yards receiving, plus nine touchdowns. It’s been a steady decline since.
To date, the Raiders have thrown 50 passes, and only one has been aimed at Renfrow, a catch he made for 23 yards. He struggled to get into the offense last year, too, When coach Josh McDaniels came in and changed the offense (a concussion to Renfrow and an oblique injury causing him to miss seven games did not help), Renfrow’s production plummeted to 36 catches and 330 yards.
49ers Could Load up for Super Bowl Run
That’s why Renfrow’s name has remained on the rumor mill—where it lived in the offseason, too—throughout the early season.
“The 27-year-old should be available because the Raiders aren’t using him,” Bleacher Report wrote. “Another team could. Renfrow dealt with multiple injuries in 2022 and has been virtually invisible this season. However, he was a Pro Bowler and a 1,000-yard receiver in 2021. A crafty slot specialist, Renfrow could boost several offenses.”
The 49ers could well be one of those offenses.
“The San Francisco 49ers don’t lack playmakers, but they’re eyeing a Super Bowl run, and Renfrow would be great in Kyle Shanahan’s spacing-based passing attack,” B/R wrote. “San Francisco leads the league in cap space and may look to load up for the playoff run.”
The team is likely looking to use its cap space to bolster other spots—the defensive backfield, perhaps—and it would behoove the team to let the first few weeks play out before using that space, in case there is a major injury. But Renfrow is a weapon who could be had on the cheap, and worth consideration for the 49ers.