Mario Manningham San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers’ parade of roster moves continues, as the team today announced the activation of Mario Manningham from the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform List. The 49ers also waived Nnamdi Asomugha and activated Eric Wright from the Reserve/Non-Football Injury List.

Manningham isn’t a track star, or a huge physical freak like Josh Gordon. However, Manningham was easily the 49ers’ second-best receiver last season. His season-ending knee injury in Week 16 forced the 49ers to depend on Randy Moss as their No. 2 receiver, with Ted Ginn moving to No. 3. The situation was so dire, the 49ers were even forced to — cringe — give A.J. Jenkins 10 playoff snaps.

Until Michael Crabtree comes back, Vernon Davis is still the team’s top downfield threat and Anquan Boldin remains the primary wide receiver. But whether or not Kyle Williams and/or Jon Baldwin were getting open, Colin Kaepernick didn’t seem to trust either Williams or Baldwin all that much. That shouldn’t be a problem with Manningham.

It’s not like the Kaepernick-to-Manningham combination was unstoppable last season; in about four games Kaepernick targeted Manningham 19 times, resulting in 14 catches for 171 yards and no touchdowns. Although he only averaged 10.7 yards per catch with the 49ers (he caught 18 touchdown passes and averaged over 14.7 yards per catch over his last three seasons with the Giants), Manningham was one of the most dependable receivers on the team last year.

Manningham caught 76.4% of the passes thrown his way last year, fourth in the NFL behind Brandon Stokley, Randall Cobb and Percy Harvin. Crabtree was seventh in this category in 2012 at 72.0%. Baldwin was last in the NFL among qualified receivers, only catching 43.5% of the 46 passes thrown his way. Granted, the quarterbacks targeting Baldwin last year were Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn.

One of the reasons Manningham’s personal completion percentage was so high: he was one of seven receivers who was targeted at least 46 times and only dropped one pass last season. Baldwin, interestingly enough, was one of the others.

Why so much about Baldwin? Until Crabtree returns sometime in mid-to-late November or perhaps later, the the 49ers will still run three-WR sets occasionally — and every once in a while those formations won’t include Vernon, Bruce Miller or Daniel Kilgore as the third receiver.

Marlon Moore was recently waived (and was promptly picked up by his old team, the Miami Dolphins). Quinton Patton is still injured and may get placed on IR to make room for Crabtree or Nick Moody. That leaves Baldwin and Kyle Williams, neither of whom has done much of anything this season.

  • Williams: 11 receptions on 25 targets, 108 yards (9.8 avg)
  • Baldwin: 3 receptions on 6 targets, 28 yards (9.3 avg)

Williams is an unrestricted free agent in 2014 (as is Manningham). The 49ers can keep Baldwin at $1,274,765 next season if they choose, although that might be a little too much money for a No. 4 receiver who has been a disappointment since Kansas City drafted him in the first round in 2011. As of now Williams is still the team’s main returner, but with Jim Harbaugh recently mentioning the need to get LaMichael James on the field, Williams’ days with the 49ers could be numbered. Either way, the return of Manningham means time is running out for both Williams and Baldwin to prove they deserve a spot on the 49ers’ roster, either this year or in future seasons.