Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN’s Barnwell predicts Cordarrelle Patterson to 49ers, Kendrick Bourne to Jets

Feb 1, 2021 at 11:23 AM--

This should be an interesting offseason. With the salary cap potentially dropping to $175 million (it will probably be higher, but that is the floor), that could mean a surplus of free agents available as NFL teams try to trim down their roster expenses.

ESPN's Bill Barnwell took a look at the upcoming crop of free agent wide receivers — 43 of them, to be exact — and tried to find offseason matches for each. The salary-cap strapped San Francisco 49ers aren't expected to compete heavily for any of the top names. After all, they have nearly 40 players of their own who played last season on the final year of their respective deals—big names like offensive tackle Trent Williams, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, and cornerback Richard Sherman. Let's not forget that All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner will soon be due a contract extension.

That means we can probably throw out names like Allen Robinson as potential free agent targets for San Francisco. Barnwell envisions one receiver, who he categorizes under "The intriguing matchup pieces," heading to the 49ers. The ESPN writer projects the Niners signing Chicago Bears wideout Cordarrelle Patterson to a two-year, $5.5 million deal.

"Patterson's primary role is as the best kick returner in football, but he also offers value as a running back and an occasional wide receiver," wrote Barnwell. "I'm not sure he's ever going to get much more than five touches per game as a hybrid player, but the right coach can unlock something valuable in the former Vikings first-round pick."

The 29-year-old receiver had just 21 catches for 132 receiving yards this past season while adding 64 carries for 232 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. He also recorded 35 kickoff returns for 1,017 yards and a touchdown.

"I like the idea of Patterson heading to San Francisco, where the 49ers had the league's second-worst kickoff return unit in 2020 and have an offensive mind who can get the most out of those five touches for Patterson in coach Kyle Shanahan," added Barnwell.

One other receiver who Barnwell has in the same receiver category is Kendrick Bourne, who is about to become an unrestricted free agent. The ESPN writer can envision the 25-year-old 49ers wideout following Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur to the New York Jets.

"In a typical year, there might be a small bidding war for Bourne, who averaged 9 yards per target in 2020 and has the size and skills to make a difference in the red zone," wrote Barnwell. "In this market, though, he's probably going to prefer a one-year deal with a chance to emerge in a friendlier cap situation next year to whatever multiyear deals might be on the table.

"I can find a logical landing spot in New York, where the Jets have former 49ers passing game coordinator Mike LaFleur as their offensive coordinator."

Bourne recorded 49 catches for a career-high 667 yards with two touchdowns in 2020.

H/t to Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports for the find.

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