Deebo Samuel, in the midst of the first offseason where he’s eligible for an extension, scrubbed his Instagram of virtually anything 49ers related. His profile photo, which used to feature him in a 49ers uniform is now blank, and there are no photos of him in a 49ers uniform save for the graphic honoring him as a First-Team All-Pro. The social media maneuvers aren’t reason to believe he’ll be traded or anything, but it’s worth noting.
Samuel is due to cash in after a monster 2021 campaign where he caught 77 passes for 1,405 yards and six touchdowns, and ran for 365 yards and eight touchdowns on 59 carries en route to his first All-Pro nod. His contract negotiation was never going to be easy for a couple reasons.
First, Samuel’s positional value is impossible to determine because of his dual contributions as a wide receiver and running back. Paying him based on his value as a pass catcher takes his eight rushing scores off the table. Paying him as a runner takes his 1,400 receiving yards off the table. He should probably be paid among the top receivers in the league, and it stands to reason he’d want a little more sprinkled on because of his rushing ability.
Second, San Francisco is already loaded with top-of-market contracts. Trent Williams, George Kittle, Fred Warner, Arik Armstead and Kyle Juszczyk all have contracts that sit at or near the top of their positions. Samuel’s fellow 2019 draft pick Nick Bosa is also due for an extension that will make him one of the highest paid defenders in the NFL. With quarterback Trey Lance on a rookie contract the 49ers will have a little bit of flexibility over the next couple of years, but that flexibility can only extend so far up against a hard cap.
Third, the 49ers might have some reservations about Samuel’s ability to stay healthy if he’s catching four passes per game and running it seven times. He dealt with injuries in 2020 that limited him to only seven games, and San Francisco will have to figure out whether they can continue utilizing him as a runner as often as they do while also ensuring he’s staying on the field and involved in the passing game.
There are no clear answers and getting to a conclusion is going to be a long, perhaps sometimes rocky road. That brings us to Samuel’s Instagram account. Let’s speculate!
Chances are in April the 49ers and their star wide receiver won’t be particularly close on numbers. There’s lots of negotiating to happen and finding a middle ground involves back-and-forth between the sides. It would make sense if something happened in talks that pushed Samuel to take action on social media. It’s far from the end of the world since any holdout wouldn’t happen until July, but it’s absolutely worth noting since such changes to Instagram accounts don’t happen on accident.
Since this is all speculation though, we must also acknowledge that Samuel might’ve done this randomly and it has nothing to do with negotiations.
That’s hard to believe though given the nature of the changes.
Ultimately none of this means anything in terms of Samuel’s standing with the team. They’ve publicly said they want him around. The IG alterations are likely a result of negotiations which is worth paying attention to, but the panic button on whether he’ll be with the team next season shouldn’t be dusted off just yet.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism