The NFL Draft always gives stories of big trades and big names moving for draft picks. Today, the San Francisco 49ers made the trade to acquire wide receiver Stevie Johnson for a conditional 2015 fourth-round pick which could become a third. This was less than 24 hours after the Bills traded up in the first round to draft Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins. The Buffalo Bills stole a mid-round pick from the 49ers when San Francisco had all the cards on their side.
First, the Bills did not need the former Kentucky product that had flamed out after leading the team in receiving from 2010 to 2012 (his best year was in 2010). His injury filled 52-catch, 597-yard season in 2013 seemed to be the writing on the wall that the Bills may look elsewhere for their receiving needs. The Bills made a risky move to trade up last night and grab Sammy Watkins (who is a top player with his extreme skill) as they had to give up a future first round pick, which are always extremely valuable to a team that needs to build through the draft to help their young quarterback. I saw them sitting at nine and grabbing Eric Ebron, who is a enormous upgrade over the current tight ends on the roster. But, that is another story. What the Watkins selection did was make Johnson even more expendable and give leverage to the other NFL teams in a trade.
Secondly, the cap number of Stevie Johnson would have had me shy away if I was the 49ers. After his third straight year of good performances in 2012, Johnson signed a five-year contract extension worth $36 million. According to OverTheCap.com, the 49ers’ estimated cap space is now $796,476 after taking on Johnson’s cap number of $3,925,000 (in year three of his deal). So, this leaves no room to help the linebacker core with a trade to help alleviate the Navorro Bowman injury and the Aldon Smith legal problems. It leaves no room to give Colin Kaepernick his payday for all the good work he has done as the starting quarterback. The 49ers had the chance to drive a hard bargain with the Bills as they could have referenced their cap situation and shown some uneasiness in taking on the contract.
Thirdly, Stevie Johnson is just the type of receiver the 49ers do not need. He is not the vertical receiver that can stretch the field for the possession guys in Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin. Instead, he has a similar skill set as those two. So, there will be more of the short passing options and not the deep routes needed to open up the reads for Kaepernick (unless they somehow see Vernon Davis as the vertical guy).
Lastly, Johnson’s selfish attitude and drops in critical moments would have driven me far away from trading for him. First off, Stevie Johnson admitted to not working out last offseason as he had a bad relationship with the new coaching staff in Buffalo. This hurt the former Bill as he suffered with getting into shape and he suffered back, groin and hamstring injuries. There was also the times he was benched for attitude problems and unnecessary touchdown celebrations. Finally, there was the drops/fumbles and lack of concentration at critical moments (remember the Pittsburgh game or the Atlanta game or the Miami game).
Yes, Johnson was a steal at the 224th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. But, he is not worth a mid-round selection if you were the 49ers. San Francisco had cap space concerns, attitude concerns, fit concerns, and leverage with the Bills and could not get a deal that would be worth it. I believe the 49ers should have given up a conditional sixth rounder at the most. Randy Moss to the Patriots was a fourth round pick and Johnson is no Randy Moss.