When most people hear the name Steve “Stevie” Johnson, this is what usually first comes to mind.
In 2011, he tried a different way to get attention.
An immature, blasphemous “clown” who drops passes all too frequently. SIGN HIM UP.
No, really. Sign him up.
This isn’t exactly what I planned either. With a group of free agent wide receivers so deep it appeared the 49ers could end the 2012 off-season as a “run and shoot” team, it’s a little deflating to see what’s transpired.
Mike Wallace: The cost to add this guy would be huge: an expensive contract and a first round pick to the Steelers.
Dwayne Bowe: The Chiefs are giving him that tag, which is bad news if you either (1) wanted the 49ers to sign him or (2) wanted the 49ers to benefit from a deep WR pool that gave receiver-needy teams plenty of options. The good news: certain local bloggers won’t have to spend next fall worrying about spelling Bowe’s first name in the same weird way as a certain NBA superstar in Miami.
Wes Welker: Isn’t going anywhere.
DeSean Jackson: Probably on his way to getting franchised, just like Bowe. He’s also a heavily-concussed, pass-dropping machine.
Brandon Lloyd: Juuuuuuust kidding.
Suddenly, this has become a 3-man race if the Niners are looking to add a receiver who surpassed 1,000 yards this past season: Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston and Stevie Johnson.
The Chargers may still franchise Jackson, but that’s still undetermined. Colston’s had two knee surgeries and has spent his career playing in a fantastic offense with a top-3 quarterback — to expect him to come to San Francisco and be the No. 1 receiver is unrealistic.
There are other guys out there, but why shouldn’t the Niners go after Johnson, who was born in San Francisco, attended Angelo Rodriguez High School in Fairfield and Chabot College before heading to Kentucky?
Here’s why they should:
— It was just one tweet, two years ago, and what he wrote was hardly evil.
— Tact may not be Johnson’s strong suit, but that Burress diss was pretty funny.
— Johnson dropped 13 passes in 2010 with 82 receptions, including the one that led to the tweet that made him the anti-Tebow. That gave Johnson the 9th-worst drop percentage in the league (13.68%), even worse than Michael Crabtree (12.70%). In 2011 Johnson was a different receiver. Only 5 drops with 76 receptions (6.17%), a much bigger improvement year-to-year than what we saw from Crabtree in 2011 (11.11%).
— Johnson has put up big numbers over the past two years in Buffalo. The Bills decided six games into 2011 that Ryan Fitzpatrick is a franchise quarterback. They were a little overzealous.
If I hammer home this point too often during the off-season, I apologize — but the 49ers should continue doing what got them to the NFC Championship Game in 2011, at least from a personnel side. That means they need to avoid overpaying players and pounce on undervalued talent.
If the 49ers can get a receiver who has gone for over 1,000 yard in the past two seasons, with 17 touchdown receptions over that period, for cheap — just because he made a Twitter mistake and gets a little too enthusiastic while celebrating touchdowns — they should.