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The 49ers May Finally Acquire an Owens Replacement

Levin T. Black
Feb 21, 2019 at 3:00 PM


It's been a long time since the San Francisco 49ers have had a truly elite wide receiver. The last top flight WR to don the red and gold was Terrell Owens in 2003. There have been 15 seasons played in the NFL since then and for 15 seasons the 49ers have searched for an Owens replacement. All of that could change in the coming weeks.

How deficient has the production at WR has been for the 49ers? Well ...

  • No WR has caught double-digit touchdowns since Owens in 2002 (16 seasons)
  • No WR has crossed the 1,200 yard barrier since Owens in 2002 (16 seasons)

Using the 1,000 yard barrier, the 49ers have been particularly inferior to other teams. Beginning with the 2004 season (first without Owens) the NFL has had 293 total 1,000 yard seasons by WR's according to Pro Football Reference. That gives the 32 NFL teams an average of more than nine for each team. The Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals lead the way with 18 a piece.

The 49ers? Dead last with just three. The three 49ers seasons are Anquan Boldin in 2013 and 2014 and Michael Crabtree in 2012. It gets worse. The 49ers' top single season, Boldin's 1,179 yards in 2013, doesn't crack the top half of WR 1,000 yard seasons in the NFL since 2004 as it's 147th out of the 293.

Read that last paragraph again and let it sink in.

The Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake nipple incident happened in 2004. Matt Leinhart was only a junior at USC in 2004. The Athens Olympics happened in 2004. The Indian Ocean tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka and other countries happened on 2004. The NASA Opportunity Rover that just died a few weeks ago landed on Mars in 2004. It's been a looong time.

Of course this is all relevant right now because two truly elite WR's are currently on the trade market. Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr. both have character warts but both are undeniably elite.

As was said earlier, the 49ers have zero double-digit touchdown seasons by a WR since 2002 and only three 1,000 yard seasons since 2004. Brown has four double-digit touchdown seasons and seven 1,000 yard seasons since he entered the league in 2010. In six of those seasons he had at least 1,200 yards.

Beckham, meanwhile, didn't enter the league until 2014 but still has three double-digit touchdown seasons and four 1,000 yard seasons.

To get either, the matter comes down to the 49ers' willingness to give up the draft picks required. Head coach Kyle Shanahan has made comments in the past that would seem to make a trade unlikely. David Bonilla wrote about that earlier. (What Kyle Shanahan has said about bringing high-character players to the 49ers)

Shanahan's comments came prior to the 2018 season. There are two points that I'd suggest may have changed his opinion since then.

The first, the greatness of Brown and Beckham is rare. It is not often a WR of their caliber is available either as a free agent or in trade. While character and locker room atmosphere are important to Shanahan, either WR could be enough for Shanahan to relinquish and take the gamble.

The second point is the fact the 49ers went 4-12 in 2018 while not doing enough to make the big splash whether it be Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper, Allen Robinson or whatever other big name you want to insert.

The 49ers have enough draft capital to get either WR and enough cap space to absorb their large contracts.The 49ers shouldn't pay a ransom but neither should cost what their talent indicates. This is especially true in Brown's case.

The time has come for the 49ers to make the big splash. The shift from rebuild to win now has to be made.
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.


8 Comments

  • Bill
    The last thing I want to see on the 49ers is a replacement for Terrible Owens. Why would we want to see anything like Terrible Owens again? Question, is the Webzone really doing their best to drive fans away from this site with ridiculous articles such as this? Was the writer of this article actually old enough to witness how Terrible Owens destroyed the 49ers? And we would want a clone because???
    Feb 25, 2019 at 1:39 PM
    0
  • Mikecorts
    No free agent wide receivers please....We need a great pass rusher and a solid o-line. Arron Donald and Suh were held in check most of the game and Brady took them apart. I think Brown and Beckham will only cause problems in San Fran. Moreover, they are going to want massive contracts with a huge garantee. Forget them!!!!! and try to get Bosa.
    Feb 24, 2019 at 9:54 AM
    1
  • Chief
    Need offensive lineman and defensive lineman that fit the scheme. Gotta get a lot faster on defensive line. Need offensive lineman that can pass block. Focus on building offensive line with high draft picks. No need OBJ or Brown. Pettis is on his way. Should look to draft WRs. Sign Veteran Safety (not Earl Thomas). Sign veteran LB. Sign veteran defensive lineman. Championships start in the trenches. They lack leadership in all phases on defense. Too young (except Sherman but he needs help).
    Feb 22, 2019 at 2:54 AM
    4
  • MT9er
    Pete, I couldn't agree more. I'd like to be reminded of the last SB winning team that had a top 3-5 WR getting paid top $. If folks want the team to be more aggressive in FA, that's fine. But be aggressive with positions and players that make sense for the team. If one of the top edge rushers (e.g. D. Lawrence) somehow became available, go for it. That could turn the D around. But trading the #2 pick for a diva WR would be a terrible idea, in my opinion.
    Feb 21, 2019 at 8:35 PM
    2
    Response: Four years ago Demaryius Thomas was in the first year of what was then the third largest contract ever given to a WR, one year removed from being 3rd in receiving yards as part of a 111-1619-11 season and had 1304 the year Denver won it despite awful QB play.
  • Coastal Dave
    Forget both of these clowns! I agree with going after Tyrell Williams. Draft a receiver in the 2nd round and we're solid gone. Kyle can scheme receivers open: Kittle caught the ball all year with no defender within 8-10 yards... Save the money and build a championship. That starts with edge (Allen or Bosa), and getting Funky Earl Thomas. Playoff bound in 19'.
    Feb 21, 2019 at 8:19 PM
    4
  • Pete
    The myth of the "elite" receiver is alive and well. If elite receivers equal super bowl wins why are both of these clowns being run out of town? 14 seasons between the two of them and no rings. Where are all the rings on the fingers of the elite receivers? Julio Jones? AJ Green? DeAndre Hopkins? Larry Fitzgerald? Randy Moss? TO? Save the draft capital and salary and build a deep roster.
    Feb 21, 2019 at 7:05 PM
    5
  • ddmur
    Every year at this time, the fan base lobbies for a big splash in free agency. One could argue that we should do something like the Rams did last year, or maybe even the Eagles the year before. The Rams made it to the Superbowl and the Eagles even won. But even now there is talk that the Rams are not well positioned to make the same run next year giving their salary. But we should be asking, is the team better than two years ago? Forget the record. Are we better? They answer is clearly "yes." Are we better than last year? The real question is do we have a long term quarterback? Garoppolo has NEVER gone more than eight games without getting hurt. If he get hurt next season, we are going to need to get a good quarterback and all of us will be disappointed that we are drafting at the top of the board again. We have no choice but to hope and pray that our quarterback make it through entire year. Assuming that that is the case, I vote that we don't try an become one seasons wonders but bringing high priced free agents. As long as we are getting better each year, I'm happy. We are developing a core group of players that we can build a team around.
    Feb 21, 2019 at 6:50 PM
    1
  • Domingo
    I couldn't agree more. Its time for the 49ers to make a move. If a year from now we are looking back at another 4-6 win season fans are going to be unhappy and the heat on Lynch and Shanny will start to really rise and they are going to start to feel the heat. Either of these two guys would give the 49ers a real chance to improve in terms of wins and would add a element of excitement to Sundays that has been missing. Get er done Lynch.
    Feb 21, 2019 at 5:27 PM
    0

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