Yes, that’s the same Steve Smith who was a wide receiver for 16 NFL seasons. Since he retired and apparently became an NFL reporter who breaks stories, he’s not an option to replace Torrey. However, we’re seeing reports of several receivers the 49ers are considering, including two big players who passed the 1,000-yard mark (barely) last year: Terrelle Pryor and Kenny Britt.
On Pryor, the 49ers are among five teams reportedly interested, and one is Pittsburgh. If the Steelers — the best team at evaluating wide receiving talent in the entire league — are after him, the 49ers are probably on the right track.
And, from the looks of things, Torrey might not be the only receiver who’ll play for a different team next year.
Who knows, maybe Patton is tweeting about being “raised by dem old heads” (Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore, Justin Smith, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, it would appear) for other reasons other than falling back on nostalgia after the team that drafted him broke up with him. But he’s an unrestricted free agent, and after a four-year run with the 49ers in which he picked up more personal fouls (four) than touchdowns (one), it’s probably safe to assume that the 49ers’ new regime told him some version of “thanks, but your services are no longer required.”
Patton actually had a better season than Smith — the former had 408 receiving yards compared to just 267 for the latter, who had the third-highest cap number ($9,475,000) on the team for 2017.
Many have been quick to defend Smith, saying the 49ers wasted his talents. The problem is he has only one talent defenses had to keep in mind, and that was running vertical routes. This talent was enhanced to a degree by the quarterback he played with in Baltimore, as Joe Flacco’s only elite (sorry, I had to) quality is his ability to throw deep passes. Smith didn’t play with great throwers in his two years with the 49ers, but he didn’t help matters with his play either.
Smith was ranked 114th out of 115 qualified wideouts by Pro Football Focus. He didn’t play at maximum effort on numerous occasions (this was even easier to see when you compared his sometimes lethargic route-running to Jeremy Kerley, who busted his ass throughout the year and was recently rewarded with a three-year, $10.5 million contract by the 49ers). His body language was awful at times. He wasn’t an effective blocker. He didn’t do much across the middle. But mostly, he was paid like a No. 1 receiver and never performed like one.
Was the quarterbacking poor? Absolutely. Was the coaching poor? And how! But he was outplayed by a 35-year-old Boldin in 2015, back when people started wondering when they would utilize Smith correctly. Then his production fell off a cliff last season, and this decision was probably pretty easy for Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch as a result.
With Smith and likely Patton gone, the 49ers have some more work to do to fill out the roster. Shanahan said that when it comes to receivers, the 49ers want to “add as many as we can.” The draft is an option, but the better free agent pass-catchers are going to want to know who’ll be throwing the ball. Whether the plan is to trade for Kirk Cousins or Jimmy Garoppolo, or sign a free agent or two, the 49ers should probably act quickly.