Deebo Samuel’s social media bio has been wiped of his 49ers affiliation, for now.
It’s not time to panic about his contract negotiations. Not for another three months when camp approaches, or even as late as five months when the season gets churning.
Then again, maybe a crisis point is boiling, and perhaps that timeline speeds up to two weeks, if he’s demanding a trade before the draft, all of which seems illogical.
But by recently scrubbing the 49ers from his Instagram and Twitter handles, Samuel invited sizzling questions about his fate, so here are potential answers:
Could they give Deebo a deal?
Two years ago, the 49ers opted to trade defensive tackle DeForest Buckner upon his initial All-Pro election, as he was reportedly seeking a top-of-the-market deal.
Samuel made All-Pro as a third-year wide receiver last season, and he promptly became eligible for a new contract before his rookie deal expires in 2023. Wide receivers Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams and Stefon Diggs all struck deals this past month to set a bar for Samuel, whose versatility as a touchdown-scoring rusher could make him want more.
This 49ers regime is no stranger to a stunning deal.
Look at the Buckner swap for a 2020 first-round pick, which yielded his yet-to-deliver replacement, Javon Kinlaw.
Look back a year before that, when they acquired a franchise-tagged Dee Ford from Kansas City.
Look at last year’s bounty that cost them to move up to No. 3 overall, for quarterback Trey Lance.
Look back to Kyle Shanahan’s and John Lynch’s first draft in 2017, when they dropped one spot to No. 3 overall for a regrettable selection of Solomon Thomas.
Dealing an MVP-caliber player in Samuel, however, seems like an NFL malpractice for a franchise that’s gone deep in two of the past three playoffs, and could have gone further if not for bad fourth quarters.
Why shouldn’t they trade him?
No one proved a bigger catalyst to Shanahan’s offense the past couple of years than Samuel, including tight end George Kittle, left tackle Trent Williams and fullback Kyle Juszczyk – each of whom was awarded a record contract at their position by the 49ers.
Take Samuel away from this offense and, well, they better pray Kittle stays healthy, Brandon AIyuk doesn’t retreat into the doghouse and Elijah Mitchell becomes more reliable after an injury-plagued yet productive rookie season.
Samuel conducted the last season he is much more than the 49ers’ first 1,000-yard receiver since Anquan Boldin. He can run for touchdowns. Heck, he can even throw a touchdown. He’ll return kicks, maybe even punts.
The 49ers seemed to maximize his talents last season when they needed him most – en route to the NFC Championship Game. They’ll need him more than ever to help offset growing pains that come with the transition to Lance. Yes, Samuel staunchly supported Jimmy Garoppolo, but a quarterback switch seems like a non-factor in any Samuel holdout.
Why would they trade him?
Money would have to be the root of such trade-talk evil. Is he too greedy, when he’s trying to cash in on all-time popularity and productivity?
Now is the time to buck for that promotion to a higher pay grade, to ask for the most money of a non-quarterback. Is that true? Does it matter? Ask and maybe they deliver.
Ownership adores Samuel, as evident by CEO Jed York happily greeting Samuel on the practice field late in the season. Shanahan appreciates Samuel more than anyone and has the ultimate say over his future, with ownership’s blessing.
It’s not as if the 49ers are desperate for draft picks to rebuild the franchise. They have nine picks in this month’s draft (April 28-30), although none in the first round this year or next year. This draft is deep in wide receivers, many of whom said at the scouting combine they want to be the next Samuel in terms of versatility.
True, Samuel has not been named a team captain in his three years. But he took on a leadership persona last season, both on and off the field.
Currently, Samuel is training in the Miami area with other NFL stars. Back in Southern California, meanwhile, Lance and his presumptive backup, Nate Sudfeld, are throwing passes to Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings and Ray-Ray McCloud at Golden State College in Huntington Beach.
So what’s next?
The 49ers’ offseason program opens next Tuesday, April 19. It is voluntary. Samuel faces no financial penalty for skipping it, at least not until the mandatory minicamp that caps the sessions in mid-June.
Hence, now is the time for opponents to make any wild pitch for him – and for him to leverage that into more money.
His best fit: The New York Jets, who have the picks to trade, the need to pair him with 2021 top pick Zach Wilson, and the familiar coaching staff and offensive scheme already imported from the 49ers – all in the media capital of the universe .
Actually, his best fit is on the 49ers, for millions upon millions of reasons that have been budgeted for, as general manager John Lynch tested earlier this offseason.
When does that bill come due? Well, the 49ers already have had two-plus months to award him a deal, and they’ve got a couple more until they hit that financial window where extensions went to homegrown stars Kittle and Fred Warner the previous two summers, respectively.
If a stalemate ensues into camp, daily fines of $ 40,000 will pile up – then likely to be forgiven once a deal is hatched, with the 49ers.
For now, the mystery grows, as everyone tries deciphering every nugget from the 49ers and Samuel, whose daily inspirational message on his Instagram story read on Monday:
“Plant seeds of happiness, hope, success, and love; it will all come back to you in abundance. This is the law of nature. ”
– Marcus Johnson and Malik Turner have arrived on one-year deals to add depth to a wide receiver corps that still appears thin.
Johnson, 27, has appeared in 41 games (51 catches, 839 yards, three touchdowns) over the past five seasons with the Eagles, Colts and Titans. Turner, 26, played in 14 games last season with the Cowboys (12 catches, 149 yards, three touchdowns) in his second year in Dallas after breaking into the NFL with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2018.
Other wide receivers on the 49ers’ roster: Connor Wedington, KeeSean Johnson and Austin Mack.
– Defensive tackle Maurice Hurst was released Monday but is expected to immediately re-sign in a salary-cap saving move. Hurst’s injuries last season limited him to two games, after playing the three previous seasons with the Raiders.