The 49ers over the past two offseasons have locked three All-Pro members of their team into lucrative contracts, but those negotiations haven’t always gone smoothly.
They nearly lost left tackle Trent Williams to the Kansas City Chiefs in free agency before agreeing to a six-year, $138.06 million deal last year as Williams enjoyed a late dinner in Houston.
Star tight end George Kittle – whose agent called the first offer he received from San Francisco a ‘Valentine’s Day massacre’ – accepted his deal just before the start of training camp in 2020 Ditto for linebacker Fred Warner, who earned his No. 1 spot. – the market contract just before training camp last summer after participating fully in the team’s off-season program.
All three agreements had one thing in common: timelines that spurred action.
In Williams’ case, the 49ers wanted to complete the deal early in the spring because it would shape their offseason. If they hadn’t signed Williams they might not have been able to make the swap for Trey Lance as they would have been in the market for a new left tackle, which might have necessitated their first capital project.
For Kittle and Warner, both of these deals needed to be done before training camp so the team and players could prepare for the upcoming season.
This is an important context to take into account for the turbulent negotiations of the Samuel contract of receiver Deebo. Samuel, an All-Pro who had 1,770 scrimmage yards and 14 touchdowns last season, made waves Tuesday by going public with his trade request after clearing his Instagram of 49ers-related content earlier this month. He is eligible for a contract extension for the first time this offseason after being drafted in the second round in 2019.
There have been several reports indicating that Samuel’s camp is upset with its use. Samuel, of course, has become a household name for his work as both a receiver and running back, a role he embraced last season coining the term ‘wideback’. He sounded good with the role during his season-ending press conference after the 49ers lost the NFC title game to the Rams.
“I’m totally okay with that,” Samuel said. “As I’ve said throughout the year, I’m ready to do anything to help this team win in every aspect.”
Samuel has spent the year talking about the strong relationship he’s built with head coach Kyle Shanahan and former assistant Mike McDaniel, who recently became head coach of the Dolphins. Samuel met regularly with Shanahan in his office to talk about upcoming game plans and life as a new father.
“Like I said a while ago, it’s just a trusting relationship that I’ve built with Kyle and Mike and all the other guys just to have the ball in my hands and get me out to do this that they know I can do”, Samuel mentioned.
But it seems clear he no longer wants to bear the brunt of a running back’s workload (he had 59 runs during the regular season) without further compensation.
Here’s the thing: From the 49ers’ perspective, there’s no rush to strike a deal because the usual deadline for such an extension, like Kittle and Warner’s, is the start of training camp, for which the players show up at the end of July. Which means these are still the early stages of the negotiations from San Francisco’s perspective.
And as negotiations progress, the two sides are usually furthest apart in the early stages.
This is where Samuel and Kittle’s negotiations seem to follow a similar path. Kittle’s camp was clearly upset with the “Valentine’s Day Massacre” offer initially. The difference being that Kittle hasn’t publicly requested a trade from the 49ers on his social media. Cooler heads prevailed and they eventually reached a deal. It remains to be seen whether the relationship with Samuel can be repaired.
Samuel’s situation is one of the most complex in recent history.
The receiver market is booming, as evidenced by historic deals signed this offseason by Davante Adams (five years, $141.25 million), Tyreek Hill (four years, $120 million) and Stefon Diggs (four years , $96 million). Samuel surely thinks he should be in that area after what he did for the 49ers in 2021, making up 28% of the team’s total yardage (fourth in the NFL) while the team had quarterback play middling back of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Samuel could also argue that he’s even more valuable to San Francisco as the team moves to Lance.
But there are few things Samuel doesn’t have going for him. In the case of Adams, Hill and Diggs, they combined six All-Pro nominations, 13 Pro Bowls and 11 seasons with at least 1,000 receiving yards before signing their contracts this spring. Samuel had one of each, all coming in 2021, after missing time in 2020 with various injuries. Foot and leg injuries have plagued Samuel as an outgoing South Carolina prospect. Samuels had an elite production year while Adams, Hill and Diggs each had several.
There’s also been a slew of talented receivers entering the league from college, which should continue with a strong draft class next week.
Using Samuel goes both ways, which makes it super complicated.
The 49ers might say that because Samuel has an injury history, he’s less of a sure bet for a lucrative contract. And Samuel argues that because of his injury history, it’s important he earns as much money as possible now because his earning power might not be the same if his body continues to take beatings like he does. has done since joining the NFL.
Another thing that is not in favor of Samuel is the language of the collective agreement signed in 2020. If San Francisco does not trade Samuel and he lasted the whole season, he would not gain an accumulated season, nor would only pay for 2022, and he would become a restricted free agent next spring, meaning the 49ers would have the right to match any offers he received elsewhere (restricted free agents are not eligible for the tag of franchise).
Samuel therefore does not have much influence. The 49ers have absolutely no business trading him and could argue that his best chance for career success is to stay with the team and play for Shanahan, who he has repeatedly said he has a relationship with. solid.
Samuel seems to treat the 49ers with the same ferocity he treats his opponents. But there’s no getting through a defender’s face mask at the negotiating table. Sheer willpower isn’t going to win for Samuel like it does on the football field.
San Francisco can rest easy knowing that there are months to go before a real deadline: the start of training camp. All indications are that the team doesn’t want to trade Samuel unless there’s huge loot, including maybe at least a first-round pick.
Which begs the question: Would another team want to give up a war chest of draft capital to pay Samuel when they could just draft a receiver or two at a fraction of the cost?
I guess Samuel and the 49ers will eventually fix things over the next few months. Samuel needs the 49ers as much as they need him. Over time, both parties should realize this.
This story was originally published April 22, 2022 7:46 a.m.