Bill Barnwell 'not sure' 49ers should offer Deebo Samuel large contract

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Why Barnwell is 'not sure' 49ers should offer Deebo large contract originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

If Deebo Samuel is to remain on the 49ers roster for the upcoming 2022 NFL season, it likely will take a significant contract extension to help ease the tension between the organization and the disgruntled star wide receiver.

It was reported last week that Samuel had officially requested a trade out of San Francisco, although the exact reason why has yet to be confirmed. Multiple reports have indicated that Samuel's frustration stems from his usage as both a wide receiver and running back and does not have to do with money as he and the team were expected to negotiate a contract extension before the season.

At one point, Tennessee Titans receiver A.J. Brown appeared to be following a similar path as Samuel in his pursuit of a new contract, removing all mentions of the team from his social media accounts. Both Brown and Samuel were second-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft and each share an agent. Other receivers from that draft class, including Baltimore's Marquise Brown, Washington's Terry McLaurin, Seattle's DK Metcalf and Pittsburgh's Diontae Johnson will likely be pursuing extensions as well.

ESPN NFL analyst Bill Barnwell released an article where he ranked each of the star receivers from the 2019 draft in order of who he believes is worth a top-of-the-market deal. Even after his breakout campaign in 2021, Barnwell has Samuel ranked fifth.

5. Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers

"I'm not sure that's a great idea," Barnwell writes. "We know how devastating Samuel can be at his best, and he was a true difference-maker for the 49ers in 2021, but we can't count on him to be that sort of player on a new deal. He left absolutely no meat on the bone last season, and it isn't reasonable to expect him to be as efficient with big plays."

The four receivers that Barnwell believes are worthy of top-end extension over Samuel are Brown (1), McLaurin (2), Metcalf (3), and Johnson (4). The common denominator among those four is that they each have a more consistent track record than Samuel.

Among Barnwell's concerns regarding a long-term extension with Samuel, are his drops, fumbles, injury history and uncertainty regarding his hybrid role moving forward.

"There are other concerning elements buried below the 2021 highlights," Barnwell wrote. "Samuel fumbled four times on just 136 touches. He dropped 10 passes, and while one-year drop numbers don't mean much to me, he dropped eight passes on 124 targets between 2019 and 2020. He also has struggled to stay healthy, missing 11 games and all but one snap of a 12th across three years. He has a history of hamstring injuries going back to college and a Jones fracture of his foot in his past. It would be tough to expect him to play 17 games every year."

"Even if he takes a step backward in 2022, Samuel might still be a better option than the other players on this list," Barnwell adds. "(He finished with 550 more yards from scrimmage than anybody else in the class of 2019.) The injury history and the uncertainty about whether he'll be in the hybrid role moving forward cause me to drop him here."

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Samuel sustained injuries in each of his first two seasons, with a Jones fracture in his foot sidelining him for more than half of the 2020 season. The injury concern is valid, especially if he is running the ball at a clip similar to what he did for the 49ers in 2021. With just one great season under his belt, it is fair to be somewhat hesitant in regards to San Francisco making him one of the three highest-paid receivers in the league, roughly a $21-25 million-per-year figure that has been floated in recent weeks.

The 49ers still hold quite a bit of leverage with Samuel, they do not have to trade him by any means. It's very clear that he is indeed frustrated, but the longer he remains on the roster, the more likely it is that the team will look to overcome the issue and attempt to work out a long-term extension.

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