As Draft Nears, Will Deebo Samuel Force His Way Out of SF?
SANTA CLARA — San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch says he “can’t ever imagine” trading All-Pro receiver Deebo Samuel and remains confident the two sides can still work out a long-term contract.
Lynch spoke Monday at his mandatory pre-draft news conference where the bulk of the questions he faced were about Samuel’s future. The star receiver told ESPN last week that he has requested a trade from the 49ers but didn’t specify his reasons for wanting out.
Lynch said he didn’t want to get into the “particulars” surrounding Samuel in regards to why the trade request was made or the status of negotiations, citing the “sanctity” of the team.
Lynch: Samuel ‘Means Too Much to Franchise’
While Lynch said they will always listen to offers, he was steadfast in his belief that Samuel will be on the Niners in 2022.
“I just can’t ever imagine moving on from him,” Lynch said. “He’s been such a great player for us. He means so much to this franchise. Got nothing but love for the guy.”
Samuel is entering the final year of the rookie deal he signed after being drafted in the second round in 2019 and is looking to take advantage of the exploding market of receiver contracts.
Samuel’s Contract Far Below Market Value
Samuel is set to be paid nearly $4 million this season after being a first-team All-Pro in 2021. Eight receivers have gotten new contracts this offseason worth at least $18 million a year, including Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams after trades from their old teams.
Green Bay got a first and second-round pick from the Raiders for Adams, while Kansas City got a first, a second and three lower-round picks from Miami for Hill.
The Niners don’t have a first-round pick after trading theirs away last season to move up for quarterback Trey Lance, but remain steadfast in not wanting to deal their top playmaker as they did two years ago when they dealt defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to Indianapolis for a first-round pick.
Replacing Samuel could be even more challenging after he emerged as a star in 2021 with the unique ability to thrive as both a running back and a receiver in coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Samuel finished the season with 1,770 yards from scrimmage and 14 TDs. Hall of Famer Jerry Rice is the only Niners receiver ever to gain more yards from scrimmage in a season than Samuel did last year.
Samuel had 77 catches for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns, leading the NFL with 18.2 yards per reception. He added 59 carries for 365 yards and eight TDs as he was used out of the backfield frequently in the second half of the season.
Samuel’s Unique Position Is ‘Wide Back’
Lynch called him a “game-changing” player.
“I think he’s the perfect illustration, Herm Edwards used to talk about, when will meets skill you’ve got the opportunity to be special. I think Deebo probably embodies that as much as anyone,” Lynch said. “He’s got tremendous will. He’s very talented player. I think by virtue of the way he plays, it’s inspiring. … You just don’t let guys like that walk. I can’t envision a scenario where we would.”
Samuel never complained about the heavy workload and coined a new name for his position, calling himself a “wide back.”
But after dealing with injuries in college and early in his NFL career, it’s likely that Samuel will want a long-term deal in place before having another season with that kind of load.
The Niners have rewarded many of their homegrown stars such as tight end George Kittle and linebacker Fred Warner with lucrative deals in past offseasons but that typically has taken until July to get done.
“I don’t think there’s trouble getting an extension,” Lynch said. “I wouldn’t read into that. Our track record is pretty good. We’ve never had a significant holdout and our record speaks to that and we don’t plan on one moving forward. … When you play well here, you’re rewarded, for the most part. We’re proud of that. Our actions have reflected that over time.”
Lynch had no update on the extension talks for San Francisco’s other star player from the 2019 draft other than to say the team picked up the $17.9 million fifth-year option on edge rusher Nick Bosa to keep him under contract through 2023.
“We’re going to do everything we can to keep him a part of this organization,” Lynch said. He’s a foundational player, much like Deebo, a difference maker. … At the appropriate time we will endeavor to make that a reality, that he’s here for a long time.”