49ers: Taylor Gabriel is a realistic free agent target

49ers, Taylor Gabriel (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
49ers, Taylor Gabriel (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco 49ers should look into signing the recently released Taylor Gabriel to provide a cost-effective boost to their receiving core.

The San Francisco 49ers managed to get the absolute most out of their receiving core in 2019, but the team could still be set for some significant turnover at the position next season. One player who makes sense as a feasible free-agent target is Taylor Gabriel.

The 49ers are high on Deebo Samuel who led all Niners receivers with 802 receiving yards last season. Samuel should be a focal point of the offense going forward and even if he’s not a true No. 1 option, he’s a very talented receiver.

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But outside of Samuel, the 49ers’ receiving core remains a bit of a question mark.

Emmanuel Sanders provided a boost to the offense after being acquired in a midseason trade with the Denver Broncos, but the veteran receiver is still a longshot to return in 2020.

Kendrick Bourne is a solid depth receiver but not someone who should be counted on as a starting option. The former undrafted free agent will be a restricted free agent this season and the 49ers will likely bring him back, but not in a starting role.

And apart from them, the likes of Dante Pettis, Richie James, and Jalen Hurd all remain young and unproven. Each has potential — particularly Pettis who flashed in 2018 — but hasn’t been able to step up and prove their worth just yet.

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James is an explosive offensive weapon who has been relegated primarily to special teams while Hurd battled injuries throughout his entire rookie season.

The 49ers could use some additional help at receiver, but with little cap space and limited draft capital, their pickings will be slim. That’s why a player like Taylor Gabriel makes a ton of sense.

Gabriel has previous experience playing for head coach Kyle Shanahan first with the Cleveland Browns in 2014 and second with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 — both while Shanahan was the team’s offensive coordinator.

In those two seasons under Shanahan’s guidance, Gabriel amassed 1,200 yards on 71 catches for a stellar 16.9 yards per reception. Gabriel’s shiftiness and ability to make plays after the catch makes him an ideal fit for Shanahan’s scheme and the results speak for themselves.

The 29-year-old was set to make $5.5 million in 2020 before he was released by the Bears meaning that the 49ers should be able to get him on the cheap. And that’s especially important given their tricky cap situation.

The 49ers have under $20 million in cap space at the moment and although that figure is expected to climb with the expected releases of players like Marquise Goodwin, they’ll need to be careful with the contracts they give out,

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Gabriel is a cheap, veteran option who has proven success in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme. And for that reason, he makes perfect sense for the 49ers.