It appears that the 49ers are going to release Stevie Johnson at some point soon.
Per sources, 49ers are expected to release Stevie Johnson. This will save 5.5 million of cap room. #49ers
— Dianna Marie Russini (@NBCdianna) February 28, 2015
Played the hand I was dealt and wasn’t overwhelmed or distracted. We’ve shared some great moments Santa Clara/San Francisco. 1Luv~ Cool13
That led to some discussion as to whether it was Johnson’s account or a fan account run by someone else, but it wouldn’t be all that surprising if the 49ers released Johnson. As Dianna Marie Russini pointed out, Johnson’s cap number is pretty sizable — especially considering he was a No. 3 receiver last year who finished his first (and only?) 49ers campaign with just 435 yards and three touchdowns.
And if the 49ers were interested in getting Johnson at a reduced rate, what motivation would he have to work something out with a team that used him in less than half of the offensive plays in nine of his 13 games?
As for the 49ers, they’re looking at a revamped group of receivers next year. If Johnson becomes a “cap casualty,” the only returning receivers are Anquan Boldin (stud, but in his mid-30s), Bruce Ellington (showed flashes during his rookie season of becoming a useful slot receiver) and Quinton Patton (only active for four games; made three catches last season and lost a fumble that led to a defeat against the Chargers).
Who knows what the market for Michael Crabtree will look like. NFL.com ranked him as the No. 29 free agent overall, while noting that his 2014 film suggests that he was dealing with a foot injury throughout the season. Pro Football Focus ranked Crabtree as the No. 6 free agent receiver.
He’s been famous since college and played very well in 2012. But a combination of attitude concerns (probably a bit overblown, but the “diva” label has followed him since his rookie year holdout), prior injuries and a disappointing 2014 could lead to some underwhelming offers from other teams. Crabtree stayed relatively healthy throughout this past season, which makes his numbers (698 yards, four touchdowns, zero 100-yard games) look pretty substandard for a guy looking to get No. 1 receiver-type money … especially for a guy who dropped 10 passes last season and isn’t known as a speedy, vertical threat.
It appears likely that the 49ers will use one of their first two draft choices on a receiver, but it could make sense for both sides to reach an agreement on a one-year deal. Crabtree seemed frustrated last season, but maybe a new coaching staff could turn things around on that front. Also, Crabtree and Colin Kaepernick have had great chemistry in the past (maybe a little too great in the final moments of a couple important games, but they’ve done some impressive things together).
Granted, a lot would have to happen to bring Crabtree back, probably starting with Johnson getting cut. And if the 49ers take a receiver with the No. 15 overall pick, they’ll probably use what little cap room they have for other positions like cornerback. Also, Crabtree and/or the 49ers may simply be ready to move on. It’s just that the 49ers are known for “buying low” on high first round picks coming off disappointing seasons/careers, and Crabtree may get a reality check when he’s allowed to start negotiating with other NFL teams in a week. Is Crabtree probably heading to a new squad to catch passes from a different quarterback? Probably, but crazier things have happened in Santa Clara.