49ers have to start thinking long term at wide receiver and tight end

Photo: AP

There’s no question that the addition of Torrey Smith will be a major boon to the San Francisco 49ers’ offense.

Smith, who spent his first four seasons in Baltimore with the Ravens, came to the Niners this offseason on a five-year, $40 million deal to be the team’s deep threat. Smith has an exceptional resume in that department, as he’s averaged 16.9 yards per catch in his career.

For as good as Smith is at what he does, he’s not the type of receiver that can carry an offense. What he can do is be someone who can take the top off a defense, and allow other players to get open underneath. As far as 2015 goes, this will be exactly what the doctor ordered in San Francisco as Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis will have more room to operate. Looking past this season, however, there are a lot of question marks as to who’ll be catching passes .

Boldin signed a five-year contract with the team prior to 2014, but the deal is voidable after two years. While he’s played well for the 49ers, he’ll be 35 in October and has to start slowing down at some point. There’s no guarantee he’ll be the same player. Or even on the roster in 2016.

Davis is coming off of his worst season as a pro, and the ultra talented tight end is in the last year of his contract. He’ll count almost $8 million against the cap, and if he were to return to the team after the season it would be for much less money.

With Boldin and Davis each seeing their days in red and gold coming to a close, the 49ers should be more than just a little concerned what their weapons in the passing game will be beyond Smith moving forward.

There’s not much else at the receiver position in terms of production, as Bruce Ellington and Quinton Patton have a combined total of 12 receptions in their careers. There’s hope that Ellington could break out in his second season, but Patton isn’t looking like much more than a fourth or fifth option at this point.

The same can also be said for the tight end position, as there isn’t much to write home about past Davis.

Vance McDonald has been a bust after being taken in the second round of the 2013 draft, and his spot on the team could be in jeopardy. McDonald only has 10 catches over his first two seasons and has never caught more than a single pass in any game.

There is some excitement around Derek Carrier, who the 49ers just re-signed to a three year-deal. Carrier caught nine balls on 14 targets in 2014. McDonald, by comparison, needed 26 targets to bring in his 10 career catches. The other option is Garrett Celek who only sees occasional looks in the passing games. He has 8 receptions on 13 targets over three seasons.

Because the future looks so uncertain at receiver and tight end, it would benefit the 49ers to look heavily at this position in the draft.

San Francisco could address their wideout need as early as the first round, and select someone they see as the heir apparent to Boldin. While the team would have to trade up to get Amari Cooper or Kevin White, they could stay at pick No. 15 and still have strong options.

The four names to keep an eye on here are DeVante Parker, Jaelen Strong, Dorial Green-Beckham and Breshad Perriman. 15 could be seen as too high for Green-Beckham and Perriman, but history tells us if Baalke identifies who he wants, he won’t be shy about pulling the trigger.

As far as tight end, it’s unknown if the team is considering this a high priority since they have their complete depth chart from 2014 returning. The 49ers did meet with two draft prospects at the position recently, Clive Walford and Cameron Clear.

Walford is seen by most as one of the top tight ends in the draft, and could be the second off the board at his position. Clear, however, hasn’t been on the radar of many draft pundits, and it’s possible he could even be an option as an undrafted free agent.

Despite the lack of certainty moving forward, there could still be chance the 49ers decide to go down a different road on draft day, and try to fill these voids elsewhere or not until next season. If they aren’t prepared to address the issue soon though, they could find themselves in a less than desirable situation.


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Al Sacco

Al Sacco is sports expert who knows football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He has spent his time as a sports journalist covering the San Francisco 49ers as a contributor to 49erswebzone.com and Ninerfans.com. He's been a guest on numerous podcasts and has had his work used on ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY.


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