A Deebo Samuel trade hasn’t materialized and doesn’t seem to be anywhere near imminent, leaving the situation stagnant, if not at a stalemate.
Samuel’s teammate, linebacker Fred Warner, can relate to a degree. Warner, a 2020 first-team All-Pro, reached 2021 without an extension and spent enough time awaiting a new deal to develop an understanding of the situation in which Samuel now finds himself.
Warner believes Samuel and the 49ers will mend fences and come to an agreement that reunites them entering the 2022 season.
“Here’s what I’m going to say about that,” Warner said when asked during a Twitter Spaces by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero if he was confident Samuel would be on the field for the 49ers in Week 1. “I know you’re going to stir it up, Tom … so listen, I know that this team knows its value in Deebo Samuel. I know that Deebo loves the team that he plays for. I know the type of teammate, the type of player he is in that locker room, the amount of love that we have for him, he has for us.
“So, I think it’s just a matter of time before something gets done. I’m here for him, and I know we all care a lot about him over here in this building and ya, that’s all I got to say about it.”
Rumblings of Samuel’s discontent first surfaced prior to the 2022 NFL Draft, leaving enough time for the 49ers to find a deal good enough to convince general manager John Lynch to ship out his best offensive player. The 49ers fielded offers for Samuel, but as coach Kyle Shanahan said, “nothing was even remotely close to what we thought would be fair to us or fair for the Niners,” and the draft passed without a deal to move Samuel.
Samuel is still on the roster, and the issue remains far from resolved. Unlike in most situations of discontent, money isn’t the main point of contention. Samuel is reportedly uncomfortable with how he was used in Shanahan’s offense in 2021, a role that shifted from being the team’s top receiver to its top overall weapon.
Instead of being a pass-catching machine, Shanahan deployed Samuel as both a receiver and versatile backfield weapon capable of receiving carries and flummoxing opposing defenses with the ground game. He also ran routes out of the backfield, finishing with the most scrimmage yards (1,770) in a single season in his career and 14 total touchdowns.
That’s stellar from the 49ers’ perspective, but Samuel doesn’t appear to be happy with becoming a running back, especially considering it’s a position with a significantly shorter shelf life in today’s NFL. Samuel’s 44 catches for 819 yards and four touchdowns from Weeks 1-8 broke Jerry Rice’s franchise record for the most yards gained in a season’s first seven games, but starting just two weeks later, his role changed rather dramatically. Samuel watched his receptions per game drop to 3.5, while seeing an increase in carries to the tune of 6.6 per contest.
If this trend were to continue, Samuel would be in a position in which he’d be asked to sacrifice at least some longevity — and the ability to cash in on a receiver market that absolutely exploded this offseason — in order to best serve the 49ers. It seems, then, as if this situation can only be remedied by returning Samuel to a primary receiver role and finding another way to get creative offensively without incorporating Samuel in the backfield.
A heaping pile of money might make Samuel change his mind, of course, but such a financial olive branch has yet to be extended. So for now, we’ll join Warner in waiting to see if a deal gets done. He just might be more optimistic about the outcome than the rest of us.
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