The addition of Stevie Johnson will go a long way in solidifying the wide receiver position for the San Francisco 49ers this upcoming season and in the near future.
Johnson, who was acquired from the Buffalo Bills for a conditional fourth-round pick, will bring a veteran presence and proven track record to an already crowded depth chart. Johnson gained over 1,000 yards in each season from 2010-2012 before being held to 597 yards over 12 games in 2013. The 49ers are hoping that a change of scenery and a significant upgrade at quarterback will help Johnson regain his old form.
In 2014, Johnson will be another weapon in a receiving arsenal that already includes the likes of Michael Crabtree, Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. He will be used as mainly a third receiver and his presence, while important, could almost be looked at as a luxury for the 49ers.
After this upcoming campaign however, Johnson’s role is likely to increase significantly. With Crabtree a free agent after the season, the 49ers will be faced with a dilemma on whether or not to re-sign him. The team will place a value on what they deem his services to be worth and not stray from that number. Johnson’s presence on the roster and contract status could greatly impact what that number will be.
Johnson is signed through 2016, and will have cap hits of over $6 million in the last two years of the deal. Unless he is willing to renegotiate his contract, the 49ers will be on the hook for that amount. With extensions looming for other core players on the team (ie. Colin Kaepernick), there is only so much money to go around.
It’s likely that the 49ers feel that Johnson will serve as insurance for Crabtree should the pending free agent seek a contract for more than San Francisco feels he’s worth. The acquisition was a shrewd move by the franchise, but could leave Crabtree on the outside looking in. Things could always change should Johnson struggle in San Francisco, but the sky’s the limit for the newest addition to the 49ers.