Deebo Samuel’s transformation into an explosive hybrid weapon in San Francisco could prove to be short-lived.
Samuel has requested a trade from the 49ers, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday. The request was submitted more than a week ago and wasn’t a surprise, as the team was aware of Samuel’s feelings about his standing within the franchise, per Rapoport.
Unlike other receivers who have created drama this offseason, Samuel’s issue with the 49ers is not related to money. Samuel is uncomfortable with how he was used in Kyle Shanahan’s offense in 2021, per Rapoport, and he’s become disinterested in engaging on long-term contract extension talks.
Samuel’s role changed rather dramatically to great success in 2021. Shanahan deployed Samuel as both a receiver and a versatile backfield weapon, handing him the ball as a running back and confusing defenses. Samuel also ran routes out of the backfield and gained the most scrimmage yards in a single season in his career, finishing with 1,770 yards and 14 total touchdowns.
Early in the 2021 season, Samuel was racking up receiving yards at an incredible rate, breaking Jerry Rice’s franchise record for the most receiving yards gained in the first seven games of a season with 44 catches for 819 yards and four touchdowns from Weeks 1-8. But just two weeks later, Shanahan and offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel started moving Samuel into the backfield, increasing his usage but also changing the types of touches Samuel received in games.
From Weeks 10-18, Samuel saw an average of 6.6 carries per game, gaining 42.9 rushing yards per contest while scoring seven rushing touchdowns. In that same span of time, he was catching just 3.5 passes per game, essentially becoming more of a running back than a receiver.
Running back tends to be a more physically demanding position than receiver, as the ball-carrier takes more hits between the tackles than receivers do when lining up outside. This certainly wouldn’t help Samuel preserve his longevity in a career that is still in its early years.
With his potential as a versatile play-maker established, Samuel appears to prefer to remain a receiver and maintain his potential to cash in on a lucrative deal similar to the ones handed to some of the league’s top wideouts this offseason. He could find such a role with almost every team in the NFL and is likely aware of this reality, making a trade request more logical from his perspective.
It seems as if the 49ers are left with a decision to make: Return Samuel to his preferred position of receiver and find other ways to get the offense moving without handing Samuel the ball, or send him to a team that will do so and will send the 49ers significant compensation. It’s not easy for any team to willingly trade away a game-changing talent like Samuel, but the 49ers might be forced to do so if they aren’t willing to adjust to satisfy Samuel.
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