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Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

What if the 49ers don’t extend Deebo Samuel this offseason?

Rohan Chakravarthi
Jan 12, 2022 at 12:30 PM--

Earlier this week, I suggested that the 49ers should extend Deebo Samuel this offseason, citing his value to this offense as a versatile weapon, the challenge presented from other talented third-year receivers, and how it would best position San Francisco for their future.

However, there most certainly is the possibility that Samuel enters next season playing on the last year of his rookie contract. While it may not be the scenario that 49ers fans want to hear, and, in my opinion, the less likely option, let's breakdown the scenarios that could occur should San Francisco elect to bypass an extension for their star receiver this offseason.

1. The 49ers Extend Deebo in 2023

If Deebo doesn't get extended in 2022, don't close the door on the relationship between him and the 49ers just yet. The 49ers could wait an extra year to see if Samuel can replicate the offensive prowess he showcased in 2021 as both a receiver and a running back, while remaining healthy for the duration of another season.

If Samuel could do as such, he would certainly increase the confidence for San Francisco to extend him to a long-term deal, which would take him through his age-32 season.

In addition, San Francisco could see how the relationship between Samuel and quarterback Trey Lance formulates, which could ultimately determine whether the 49ers pull the trigger on a deal or not.

However, if the 49ers elect to wait until 2023 to extend Samuel, it would come at a cost. Why? Well, along with Deebo Samuel, there are three other talented third-year receivers that will be looking to reset the wide receiver market behind DeAndre Hopkins's $27 million average annual value(AAV): D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, and Terry McLaurin. In addition, Davante Adams will be seeking a new contract this offseason, and he's likely to match, if not surpass, Hopkins's AAV.

So, if the 49ers bypass an extension this offseason, they provide the option for Washington, Seattle, and Tennessee to reset the market first, meaning they'd likely have to pay an exorbitant price since Samuel's talent is deserving of resetting the market whenever he receives his next deal.

Additionally, waiting until 2023 puts San Francisco in competition with the 2020 class of receivers looking for extensions, like star WR Justin Jefferson, meaning they may have to pay an additional $5 million per year to retain Samuel's services for the long-term.

So, while extending him in 2023 certainly remains an option, it would be a costly, although explainable, choice for the 49ers.

2. The 49ers Trade Deebo

It would be heartbreaking, but we've seen it before.

Recently, we've seen star receivers like Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins get traded from their respective teams and paid handsome deals by their new team. In addition, we've seen receivers like Brandin Cooks and Amari Cooper get traded while still on their rookie deals, and for good returns, so trading Samuel is not out of the question.

By doing so, the 49ers would save a large sum of money, which could be used towards other necessary deals like one for star DE Nick Bosa, and potential a potential future deal for WR Brandon Aiyuk, while providing San Francisco with adequate cap space to continue bolstering their roster.

The 49ers would likely receive significant draft capital, which would help them replace Samuel, similar to what Minnesota did with Stefon Diggs by drafting Justin Jefferson, as well as provide them with rotational pieces to strengthen the team.

While Samuel is an irreplaceable piece given his multi-dimensional skillset, Kyle Shanahan could find a similar piece that would fit in his offensive scheme to somewhat replace the production.

3. The 49ers Franchise Deebo

Should the 49ers want to keep Deebo, but are unwilling to pay him a proper sum, there is the possibility of placing the franchise tag on the star receiver following his age-26 season in 2022.

The franchise tag would be cheaper than a long-term extension and would keep the structure of Samuel's contract on a year-to-year basis, where the 49ers still have the choice to do either of the above strategies, with a trade being likelier.

Placing him under the franchise tag could keep San Francisco's championship window alive by allowing for money to be allocated toward other positions, while retaining a top-tier talent in multiple facets.

While I would strongly suggest against it, given how unique Samuel's skillset is to the 49ers' offense, and to any other offense really, the franchise tag presents itself as a possibility if San Francisco doesn't want to immediately lose Samuel for nothing in free agency.

Overall, I still believe that the 49ers should pay Deebo this offseason, but in the case that doesn't happen, these are the three likeliest scenarios for how the 49ers approach Samuel in the future.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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