On Sunday, it was reported by Roster Watch that wide receiver Allen Robinson should be expected to hit free agency, with the Jaguars prioritizing the retention of Marqise Lee instead.
The logic on Jacksonville's part?
Lee was healthy last year and will be cheaper, while A-Rob is coming off an ACL tear; they also just paid quarterback Blake Bortles, and will likely look to keep their best asset intact, which is the defense. In this scenario, Leonard Fournette becomes the centerpiece on offense.
The report was followed 29 minutes later by a cryptic Tweet from Robinson, reading, “You reap what you sow.”
Not long after, it was revealed that Robinson liked the Tweet from Roster Watch. None of the majors are yet reporting anything, but NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has continued to speak about Robinson as someone that might hit the market. There was no firm stance that the receiver was going to be retained, even with the tag as an option.
If this smoke turns to fire, Robinson instantly becomes the top free agent on the market. And the 49ers, rich, aggressive and in need of weapons, become a top-three landing spot.
Why to like the 49ers as a destination for Robinson boils down to four main reasons.
1. Jimmy Garoppolo
Everyone’s heard A-Rob’s famous “keep that [expletive] in bounds” comment about a Bortles overthrow in a joint practice. Quarterback play is important to him. The 49ers have one of the most promising in the league in Garoppolo, the still undefeated protégé of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. It’s an easy sell. Robinson can go be the WR1 for Garoppolo for the next 5-7 years, continue to dominate as an All-Pro and compete for Super Bowls.
2. Kyle Shanahan’s offense
A) A-Rob is real intriguing for Shanahan because he’s a beast after the catch, and if you watch, that offense is ripe with YAC opportunity because of the way the head coach schemes. Shanahan draws up plays that has receivers wide open with room to run.
B) The offense, even with Garoppolo at the helm, had a tough time converting in the red zone. Robinson happens to be one of the better leapers and stronger receivers at the point of the catch. This would effectively bring the back-shoulder fade—and more 50-50 balls in general—to the 49ers' transitioning red-zone offense, improving their scoring output.
C) Another area the 49ers struggled was in the deep passing attack. Robinson in 2015 had the best season recorded by Pro Football Focus since '06 in terms of deep production, besting performances like Calvin Johnson's near-2,000-yard receiving season in 2012 and Randy Moss' out-of-this-world showing with the Patriots in 2007. With A-Rob, San Francisco would become far more threatening downfield.
3. Good cornerback division
The 49ers play in the NFC West, a division that features elite cornerbacks like Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson and now Marcus Peters. It is important to build with their direct competition in mind, because that's a surefire way to give themselves a shot to make the playoffs each year, and make multiple runs at the Lombardi. A Robinson signing would reflect their acknowledgement of what they're up against in this division, and they're willingness to combat that by paying up.
4. Heavy cash flow
San Francisco is top three in cap space and weapons are a priority. Acquiring an offense-defining battery like the one Garoppolo and Robinson would form seems like a smart way to spend money in an otherwise flat year for free agents. Even if they give A-Rob around $14-16M per year, and make a couple of other notable signings, they won't spend it all. This is a rare opportunity for an impact signing, and one they can actually afford to make.
For all these reasons, general manager John Lynch may aggressively (and prudently) pursue Robinson if the opportunity rises. He is a 24-year-old All-Pro level talent that fits a need and adds another dimension to the offense. It also invests in the future with Pierre Garçon, 32, coming off a season-ending neck injury.
On the other hand, with the receiver depth in the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft, A-Rob's ACL factoring in, plus the 49ers’ current cast of Garçon, Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor, there's a case to be made against signing the wideout. And it's possible the front office feels this way.
In any case, the Jaguars have until Tuesday, 1pm PST to apply the tag or get a deal done. If not, Robinson at least could be a very real option for San Francisco.
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