Bryant Johnson Signed: Who Stays and Who Goes at Wide Receiver

Mar 14, 2008 at 11:54 AM


In breaking news today, the 49ers signed wide reciever Bryant Johnson to a one year deal. Johnson, a former first round pick, played at Arizona behind Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin.

All in all, I think it's a great signing. But it does ask the question: "Now that the 49ers have so many wide receivers on the roster, who stays and who goes?"

Isaac Bruce and Darrell Jackson are pretty much locks for the team. Behind them, you have Arnaz Battle and now Bryant Johnson, both of whom might move to the outside in three or more wide receiver sets to allow for a shiftier player, perhaps a draftee, to move into the slot.

When you get to the 5th and potentially 6th wide receiver, though, things start to get a little crazy.

Jason Hill should beat out Ashley Lelie for a roster spot. Hill's youth, size and speed make him more desirable than a wide receiver who could not get on the field for the worst offense in the league. Hill has more upside than Lelie, something that will eventually nudge Hill above Lelie.

Previously the 49ers carried six receivers, but one of them was Michael Lewis, a return specialist who would never have seen the field unless some kind of catastrophe happened at wide receiver.

Allen Rossum, another free agent, is listed as a defensive back. This opens up the 6th wide receiver spot to be occupied by a true wide receiver, most likely a draft pick.

Ultimately, this is why the Johnson signing makes the most sense. Johnson is not viewed as a number one receiver by the 49ers. But a one year deal allows a later round pick a year to develop, and it gives players like Jason Hill to come into their own. Next year, if Johnson decides to leave, the 49ers are in a position to let the younger players step up, as opposed to having to force them on the field early.

In short, the Johnson signing is a stop-gap allowing the team to develop talent at the weakest position on the roster.
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.


7 Comments

  • b
    Battle Bruce Lelie Johnson Hill..I like Hill he reminds me a little of Torry Holt if you have ever seen him play. This gives the 49ers a lot of versatility. They can even line up Gore at WR sometimes and have Deshaun in at RB. Davis the TE, i think the offense is going to be a lot better this yr with martz calling the plays. The only thing holding back the 49ers is a)offensive line b)inconsistent pass rush c)alex smith's pocket presence I still think with our 1st or 2nd pick we need to draft a big time WR, someone like james hardy andre caldwell limas sweed devin thomas early doucet, maybe Djax part 2 i dont see the point of drafting a wr in the later rounds that fits as a "slot wr" in martz offense, martz aint even gona be around probably in 2 yrs, unless hes the HC, its a waste of a draft pick. you do that when you are set with your wrs, if you have larry fitz and anquan boldin then you wana draft a good slot wr then ok makes sense but the niners need some #1 and #2 wr to see if alex smith is 4 real or not. bruce isnt gona be around forever and this is a deep WR draft. i jus think that we get a couple back on D that could help us out, so we need to improve the offense.
    Mar 16, 2008 at 12:24 PM
    0
  • Turk in Yreka
    "Isaac Bruce and Darrell Jackson are pretty much locks for the team." ...so much for that theory!
    Mar 15, 2008 at 12:34 PM
    0
    Response: I will admit when I am wrong and in this case, I was WAY off. Who would have thunk-it? Not I.
  • Ladale
    Was it not Barlow who said a few years back that this coaching staff will tell you one thing and then do the opposite. When asked about the addition of B. Johnson and rather they viewed him as a #1 next season, Nolan stated that he still viewed Bruce and Jackson as starters. Without knowing if some circumstance push this release, it seems as though leadership is not straight forward with its workers. I guess we have our answer to your question now Oscar.
    Mar 15, 2008 at 11:41 AM
    0
    Response: I believe it was McCloughan that was quoted as saying that Jackson and Bruce were the starters. You have to wonder why he would say that and then release him the very next day. Maybe Martz had some input into the decision. It is a rather curious one, though.
  • SkyDiverNiner
    Give the Mcloughan and Nolan credit. Carefully and thoughtfully they are adding and adjusting to the the roster. Is it possible that for compensatory draft pick considerations a one-year deal was worked out with Bryant Johnson?
    Mar 15, 2008 at 11:28 AM
    0
    Response: While they are improving the roster, you have got to translate that to wins on Sundays. Talent is all well and done, but I think coaching is now going to be paramount. The team has talent. Now, can they win with the talent they have. In other words, are the coaches going to utilize the team's talent effectively.
  • Frank
    Whatever McCloughan's reasoning, I love the signing. I believe BJ will take full advantage of his opportunity to emerge beyond the shadow of Boldin and Fitzgerald. It's a win-win for us...if he excels, then it's easier for Scot to extend his contract vs sign him as a FA after the season. If he doesn't, then you've bought time for Hill and whoever we draft. Personally, I think BJ will make the most of this opportunity...he truly could excel in Martz' offense.
    Mar 14, 2008 at 10:25 PM
    0
    Response: He could, but Johnson doesn't fit the traditional Martz mold. He is larger and while he does have speed, he is not the smaller shiftier types that Martz prefers. Hopefully he does well and re-ups with the 49ers.
  • proplayer71
    arnaz battle out?are u kidding me he wont light up a field but he has pretty sure hands yes lelie has talent but warming the bench wont help us,id like to see us build an o line get a pass rush then worry about adding another wr we need better QB play or rice moss owens on 1 team couldnt help us.
    Mar 14, 2008 at 7:30 PM
    0
    Response: Arnaz Batte - not only does he have the most bad a** name on the team, he is a pretty good WR. I agree with you proplayer, he makes this team.
  • ladale
    Do not be surprised if Arnaz Battle ends up being the odd man out. Everyone luvs Arnaz and he has lead the receivers in receptions, "however few", but he has shown himself to be injury prone. This is a business with Martz and Mcoloughan calling the shots on offense now, and a healthy Lelie has a track record of success that trumps Battle's. As you stated, you have your number 1 and 2 in Bruce and DJack, therefore Johnson, Hill and Lelie become more of your down the field threats. That leaves Battle out of the mix.
    Mar 14, 2008 at 4:53 PM
    0
    Response: Battle has been the most consistent WR in the last 4 years on the 49ers. And as for being injury prone, he hasn't missed a game in two full seasons, and that includes several games where he played with a broken hand. He is a far better #3 than many teams have and at worst he is the #4 receiver on this team. If Lelie were that much better than Battle he would have started for the team at some point. Remember that Sullivan is still the WR coach, and Martz demands precision. Battle can deliver that, given his offensive smarts (remember he was a QB at Notre Dame) where as Lelie can seemingly do one thing, run straight up the field.

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