Anyone who’s watched the 49ers since Terrell Owens left knows they haven’t had a downfield threat for quite some time. When they signed Braylon Edwards before the season to an incentive-laden 1-year contract, it was considered a coup of sorts. Then when Edwards escaped discipline for incidents occurring off the field over the past year or so (a DUI in Manhattan and his part in a restaurant fight in Michigan that led Edwards to recently sue said restaurant for slander), the signing was deemed to be an outright steal for the 49ers.
Even though Edwards’ hands have been questioned often throughout the years, his ability to get open and make plays far away from the line of scrimmage has been a certainty for years — Edwards has made 84 catches of 20+ yards in his career and 20 that have gone for 40 yards or more. Now the 49ers’ passing offense, which is already struggling to the tune of 128 yards per game (29th in the NFL) will be without Edwards for an undetermined period of time as it was announced today that he underwent a surgical procedure on his right knee.
What kind of knee surgery did Edwards have, and what injury did he sustain? As we should probably learn to get used to in the next few years, we have absolutely no idea due to the secrecy Harbaugh prizes when it comes to injuries. “He’s out for a little bit,” Harbaugh said … whatever that means.
So Edwards might have had a minor arthroscopic procedure, perhaps it was something more serious. Regardless, Edwards should be out this week, hopefully replaced by Michael Crabtree (whose foot injury kept him out against the Cowboys). Also possibly returning for the Niners: CB Shawntae Spencer and S Dashon Goldson, which should be considered great news for the 49ers since the secondary looked somewhere between mediocre and awful on nearly every play besides two interceptions thrown by Jon Kitna, who turned 39 today in case you’re friends with him on Facebook.
More than a tough blow for the 49ers, Edwards’ knee injury means his bank account will likely take a major hit as well. Edwards signed a 1-year, $1 million contract to join the Niners, with $2.5 million more in incentives available only if he catches 90 balls and makes the Pro Bowl. With Alex Smith struggling to throw for 150 yards per game and Edwards out indefinitely, the chances he maxes out and gets the full $3.5 million are slim and none.
As a result, it isn’t a stretch to say Edwards has gone from superstar to fighting for his NFL career. Unless he can come back and prove himself to be a solid contributor in San Francisco, he’ll have an even tougher time finding someone to sign him for 2012 than he did before joining the Niners. And if Edwards gets in any more trouble with the law, he might need to start putting together a new resume … with a focus on becoming a wide receivers coach.