Report: Stevie Johnson to be released

The 49ers will cut Stevie Johnson and save roughly $6 million in cap space, according to NBC4 D.C.

Johnson played well last season. When he was targeted, Colin Kaepernick posted a 102 passer rating. Johnson was in line to start opposite Anquan Boldin before the Niners made this move.

Who do you think will start opposite Boldin in 2015? How do you think the 49ers will spend the money they  save by releasing Johnson? Does this move guarantee the 49ers will draft a wide receiver in the first round of the upcoming draft?

Please explain your answers and show your work.

This article has 92 Comments

  1. Johnson is a bad fit in Logans’ timing route system. The 49ers will probably sign Moore on the cheap. I get the sense they’ve got confidence in Ellington so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Baalke trade down unless a blue chip player drops into their lap. I’d love to see them draft Flowers and get a 2nd Round pick next year to boot, but they’ll need a good chunk of that savings to sign their 2015 draft class….

    1. I know SJ likes the west coast, I wonder if he’d be a fit in SD. Rivers is experienced and savvy enough to make use of him imo.

  2. Johnson is a bad fit in Logans’ timing route system. The 49ers will probably sign Moore on the cheap. I get the sense they’ve got confidence in Ellington so I wouldn’t be surprised to see Baalke trade down unless a blue chip player drops into their lap. I’d love to see them draft Flowers and get a 2nd Round pick next year to boot, but they’ll need a good chunk of that savings to sign their 2015 draft class….

  3. This is a real head scratcher Grant. I thought Johnson was better than Crabtree in clutch situations last year. Unless they sign him for a lower cap figure it appears the Niners are comfortable rolling with Ellington, Patton, Boldin and whoever they draft as their top four…Adam Henry and Ronald Curry reportedly (CSN Matt Maiocco) were at the combine helping with the WR drills. They both appear to have talent evaluator skills. Henry coached Odell Becham Jr. and Jarvis Laundry while at LSU as their WR coach. This looks like a cap savings move and could mean the niners feel comfortable enough with Henry and Curry to draft and impact defender in or trade down for more picks in Rd. #1.

    1. Also, Baalke appears to to like trading picks for established vetrans (Stevie Johnson) and being only 1.5 or so over the cap did not allow them the option of signing free agents like Ricky Jean Francois (apparently interested in 49ers).

  4. This almost guarantees that the 49ers will make a strong pitch to move within reach of the top 3 WR’s A.Cooper, K.White, or D.Parker.
    There’s also the outside chance that they really like DGB and could wait to see if he is still there at 15.

    CK may have made a pitch for DGB when they worked out for EXOS in Arizona.
    Cooper and White may be to much of a reach but Parker and especially DGB could be more accessible.

    Either Parker or DGB would immediately start over Patton and Ellington and give CK two formidable targets when you Anquan to the mix.

      1. AES….I hope that CK did NOT approach DGB while practice throwing to him….Do you remember Harbaugh losing a 4th rounder just for mentioning Lance Briggs in 2011? “Loose lips sink ships”

  5. Johnson will probably be gone.Ahmad Brooks gone.Is Vernon tradable?If not cut him.I’d say Alden but we are very thin there. Not a guarantee we draft WR in first but with Crabtree,LLoyd, and possibly Johnson gone not a bad guess. Pretty sure we will draft two WR’s.If we go WR in first that is who we will see opposite Boldin. Cap savings for 2015 draftees and a few FA’s- Vernon gone so Virgil Green or Lance Kendricks TE;QB Locker or Ponder maybe:maybe take a look at Jaquizz Rodgers RB or extend FG.

    1. I always crack up at these guys that act like suitable replacements are just a draft pick away. The chance of finding players in the draft that immediately produce at the same level of these players is almost impossible. They have all been Pro-Bowlers.
      In Brooks’ case, they have a replacement in Lynch. They don’t have a replacement for any of the other players. I understand your general thought process, but you have to have replacements. Davis is in the last year of his deal, so you can expect him to be motivated. Aldon Smith is almost untouchable. He is Baalke’s L.T.

      1. It’s Hightop not “these guys”. Like I said we are thin at the position so wouldn’t part ways and am fully aware of how much talent he possesses further I am fully cognizant of how hard it would be to replace him. The reason I mused with the notion is a repeated pattern of behavior that undeniably affected his team in a negative way,the amount of money which it will take to maintain him on the squad, and the quality of play he displayed late last season.

      2. In case you haven’t been paying attention to the NFL the rookie WR come in balling if there that nice. I believe the top 5 WR rookies have good chances to continue the trend

      3. Correct. The NFL average success in the draft is about 33%, or a 67% falure rate. The failure rate for the 10 year span of 1998-2007 FIRST ROUND picks is 46%. Baalke has had a very spotty record as of late, and 2012 was almost a complete wash. CK is A LOT of the reason the VD had low numbers last year. Can’t begin to count how many times Davis was WIDE OPEN and got over thrown or just plain missed. The NFC Title game Richard Sherman INT is a perfect example: Davis was WIDE OPEN on the other side of the field. Cut Davis and he’ll be a Patriot before he can make it to his car to leave the facility.

  6. As CK=Elite mentioned above, Maiocco is saying that a league source is stating that the NBC Washington report that Stevie will be released is false. PFT is saying that the 49ers will try to negotiate a lower salary, but if they can’t, then he will be released.

    I hope they can work it out as I though Johnson did a great job until he got hurt. With Crabtree leaving, he’ll start out as the #2 WR. What annual compensation seems reasonable: $3.5 to $4 million? Maybe give him a signing bonus so that he realizes a good chunk of coin upfront.

      1. Grant: Do you know why Diana Russini at NBC in Washington DC has an “in” on the 49er transactions that our local beat writers and even the national writers don’t have? This isn’t the first time she’s reported something first on the 49ers. I’m not believing her until we get confirmation.

          1. If that’s the case then it sounds like the 49ers are still hoping to get him to reduce his salary but Johnson isn’t willing to do so.

            Oh well, can’t say I’ll be overly sad to see him go, but he would have been a useful veteran presence at WR.

  7. Can someone explain to me why cutting Johnson would make sense? If they really don’t like him, wouldn’t you assume he has trade value? But whether they cut or traded him, they’d create a hole they’d have to fill with either a free agent (Cobb?) or a very high draft pick. The latter of course would mean giving up multiple high draft picks. Head scratcher to me.

    1. With a salary of $6M I don’t know they would get a lot of trade offers for a guy that has been a #3 WR and primarily a slot WR for two straight years.

      Cutting him now frees up salary cap space so they can try and re-sign someone like Culliver before FA kicks off.

      1. Scooter, I hadn’t thought of that. Thanks. Makes sense, and by now I’ve read about Stevie’s tweet or whatever it was.

  8. SJ “Played the hand I was dealt and wasn’t overwhelmed or distracted. We shared some great moments Santa Clara/San Francisco.”

    I’m surprised. Looks like Baalke chucked the 110th pick of this draft for zip. The draft capital he used trading back to “replace” this year’s 4th rounder could have been used to secure.

    Easy for me to say “I told you so.” There are always swings and misses. I like Baalke’s draft day management. As much as I liked the 2014 draft results, skipping on a edge receiver in such a deep draft class could haunt this team for years.

    1. Correction… The draft capital he used trading back to “replace” this year’s 4th rounder could have been used to secure [a wide receiver].

    2. Its funny though – if the 49ers had drafted a WR in round 1, 2 or 3 instead of trading for Johnson, they’d have missed out on someone like Ward, Hyde, Borland or Martin, who all started or played an important role at various points last year.

      They did take a WR in the 4th (Ellington) and he barely saw the field due to the logjam at WR. So there is every chance any WR they may have otherwise taken in rounds 2 or 3 (or even in the 4th using the pick they gave up for Johnson) wouldn’t have gotten much playing time and we’d be saying they need another WR anyway because, like Ellington, they’d have been something of an unknown still. And if they’d taken a WR in round 1, we’d likely be desperately looking for CBs for both the perimeter and the slot.

      1. Scooter:

        Refresh my memory. Didn’t Ellington have one or more really good games at the end of last season. I don’t remember about Patton.

        I rewatched the Superbowl last night (condensed version) and I’m wondering if Ellington can be the Edelmann/Amendola for our team.

        1. I think Ellington was a good pick. I think he’ll be a valuable in the blue collar slot role (occasionally split out) he was initially projected to play.

          I’m not sure he was ever intended to be the speedy edge WR the 49ers have been missing. He will to well in his intended role.

          1. Brodie- I think you are essentially correct about Ellington. Good pick in the fourth round, but just a slot receiver. When you watch him in his college films, while elusive and quick to get open, he really doesn’t possess break away speed. He was often caught from behind once he caught the ball.

            1. He’ll most likely spend the majority of his career in the slot, but I do think he has the skills to be able to play on the perimeter some as well. He’s pretty compact and strong for his size, and he’s got very good acceleration. He eats up cushions very quickly which puts a lot of pressure on DBs to turn and run with him, opening up a lot of options for a variety of different routes. Good suddenness and burst out of his breaks.

              There is a good reason he received a lot of comparisons to Steve Smith Sr last year.

              1. Ellington is more quick than fast, just like Edelman who, incidently, doesn’t have break away speed either.
                Ellington could flourish in the slot if he can use his quickness in and out of his breaks to keep DBs from getting their mitts on him.
                He also needs to get stronger.
                It takes really precise route-running and excellent timing between the WR and QB to be successful in the slot.
                He and Edelman have almost identical body types and skills.
                Big difference though…Edelman has Brady.

        2. Ellington and Patton got some more reps at the end of the season. There was some promise there, but really too limited an opportunity to be certain of anything. But that’s the way it often works – these players have had veterans in front of them, now those veterans are moving on. This is the opportunity they have needed. You never know how a young guy will handle it until they actually are given that opportunity.

            1. He was healthy all last year.

              People are basing his “injury proneness” on his rookie year where he had two freak incidents occur – a dislocated finger and a broken foot when he got stepped on. It was a snake-bit rookie year, which was a real shame because he would have had a great opportunity to lock down a role if he’d stayed healthy.

              Last year when he was healthy he just didn’t get an opportunity with four veterans in front of him on the depth chart.

      2. Totally agree about rounds 1-2-3. A high picked WR would have replaced some of the day-2 picks we love to much (Borland, Hyde, Martin, etc.)

        The trades were so multiple, its hard to tell exactly what 2014 draft capital Baalke expended to “replace” this years 4th rounder… but its stands to reason its the rough equivalent of a 2014 4th rounder.

        Time will tell if 2014’s round 4 and 5 receivers will pan out. If they flop, then that’s in Baalke favor.

        1. If Ellington pans out then I’d say Baalke was very much justified.

          Don’t know if you recall, but Cody Latimer became a bit of a favourite on this blog before the draft. He ended up going to the Broncos in the 2nd round, and barely saw the field sitting behind Thomas, Sanders, Welker. I wonder if Broncos fans see him as something of a bust for not playing much his rookie year, despite the Broncos staff saying they were happy with him? I wonder if the Broncos fans think the team will need to draft a WR early if they lose Thomas?

          I often get the feeling that many 49er fans would in the same position, but that is how good teams draft – take guys with an eye to the future, not with an eye of starting immediately. That is why taking Thomas and Martin last year were such good picks – it means the team doesn’t have to take an interior OL early this year despite likely losing Iupati. They might still take an OL if the value is there, but its not a need. Getting Thomas is like using a 2nd rounder on an interior OL this year, but on a guy that already knows the system you use.

          1. Very good points.

            Also factor the “you should have picked so-and-so” math.

            For example: Say 10 receivers were taken after the 4th round. As long as one or two of them succeeds, fans will be critical of the GM that skipped them… forgetting that only 10-20% of those receivers panned out.

            I thought Baalke orchestrated a great “Plan B” draft when he realized teams were demanding a [2014 first+2014 second+2015 first] just to move within Odell Beckham range.

            2015 could be a re-run… with teams demanding huge draft capital to move up as long as Parker and White are still on the board.

              1. Who would have been the nickel CB last year (and this year) without Ward?

                What value would Matthews have provided? He was the Eagles slot WR, and he wasn’t a deep threat last year. Kind of like what Stevie Johnson and Boldin provided from the slot last year.

                The value Matthews would have provided is locking down the slot WR spot with a big guy long term. Not really what the team needs though, is it?

              2. Dontae Johnson did a better job covering the slot than Jimmie Ward last season.

                Matthews would have been a perfect complement to Boldin last season. Chip Kelly uses Matthews in the slot because he’s a YAC threat (6 yards YAC/catch), but he’s also a deep threat (46.7 percent catch rate on deep passes, 13th best in the NFL.) Matthews can do it all and play anywhere. He’s a future No.1 receiver.

              3. Matthews did very well. I hold out hopes for Ward.

                Makes me consider roster math… The Stevie Johnson release might not be totally about salary cap. If SJ was retained and the 49ers drafted a WR, would there be room on the squad for Patton or Ellington? Even less if a returner is added to the roster so Ellington can concentrate on his slot duties. (we never did replace Ginn)

                It also says something about how Baalke feels about Patton and Ellington.

              4. “Dontae Johnson did a better job covering the slot than Jimmie Ward last season.”

                No, no he didn’t. Johnson’s worst performances last season came in the slot. He looked pretty decent as a perimeter CB.

                Aside from one disastrous red zone performance against Brandon Marshall in his second pro game Ward was solid.

              5. Yes, yes he did.

                Ward’s coverage stats from the slot, courtesy of Pro Football Focus: 178 snaps, 24 targets, 18 catches allowed, 196 yards allowed, 4 TDs allowed, 0 INTs, 75 completion percentage allowed, 8.16 yards per attempt allowed, 16.6 TD percentage allowed, 0 INT percentage, 138.2 passer rating allowed.

                Johnson’s coverage stats from the slot, courtesy of PFF: 151 snaps, 22 targets, 15 catches allowed, 68.2 completion percentage allowed, 7.9 yards per attempt allowed, 4.55 TD percentage allowed, 4.55 INT percentage, 88.1 passer rating allowed.

                Across the board, Johnson’s slot coverage numbers were better than Ward’s.

              6. Wow, Johnson did better from the slot than I recalled. The guy really does have some promise.

                Take out the game against Marshall for Ward and it would be interesting to see where the stats line up.

              7. Ward gave up 5 catches on 5 targets for 3 TDs and 39 yards against Chicago. Take away that game and Ward allowed a 68.4 completion percentage, 8.3 yards per attempt, a 5.3 TD percentage and a 111.1 passer rating.

              8. So taking out the Chicago game he played 7 games, and was targeted 19 times and gave up 13 catches and 1 TD. That’s pretty solid.

                And I’m assuming the 1 TD they have against him is either the John Brown or the Brandin Cooks TD, in which Eric Reid was supposed to be providing over the top help but was out of position.

              9. No better than Johnson. Bradley Roby gave up an 87.9 passer rating in the slot. Both Roby and Matthews would have been better picks than Ward.

              10. Only if you assume what we saw last year from Ward is as good as he’ll ever be.

                Ward was thrown into the fire, Johnson had more time to get up to speed with the pro game before being thrown in. Would have been good to have seen if Ward improved during the second half of the season. We’ll get a better idea of what the 49ers have in him this year.

                As well as Johnson played in the slot according to PFF, if the 49ers had taken Matthews it would have been foolish to simply rely on a rookie 4th round pick to be able to start in that spot immediately. They would have still needed to draft a slot CB in round 2 or 3, which would have meant losing one of Hyde, Borland or Martin.

                In hindsight Roby may well have been a better pick. He played well for the Broncos for a rookie. But he came with some off field baggage while at Ohio St, which probably is best avoided for the 49ers right now. And Ward is a more sound tackler than Roby, which adds to his value as a slot CB for the 49ers.

              11. Not just hindsight. Roby was clearly the better choice all along.

                And if all you’re looking for in a slot cornerback is a guy who’s a sound tackler, you don’t have to spend a first round pick for that.

              12. “Not just hindsight. Roby was clearly the better choice all along.”

                He was? Even after a senior season in which he got beat a lot?

                Ward was an ok pick. Despite what you want people to believe he was pretty solid last season, and was also improving. I recall people saying that Bethea was washed up and a downgrade from Whitner because of what PFF ratings said. PFF grades are great, but they still don’t provide context.

                Also, I see you are once again playing the coulda, shoulda, woulda game. Any GM will look bad playing such a game. And if you think it was so obvious Roby was better than Ward, why on earth did you like Gilbert more than either of them?

              13. Most draft gurus ranked Ward behind Roby and Gilbert, and I always like Roby better than Ward.

              14. Ward was a long term response to the Percy Harvins and Tavon Austins. I see it as a mirroring of the growing number of versatile slot players.

                Slot corner’s today is a tough assignment. They have to cover the short space quickness of slow WRs, yet provide run support like a strong safety. Ward’s background made him ideal.

                Ward had his struggles, but was rounding into form in the weeks before his injury. The more experience he gets, the more he’ll use the anticipation and ball skills he showed in college.

                My concern with Ward is durability. I have no concerns about his coverage talents.

              15. CBS had Jimmie Ward ranked 33 and Roby ranked 39. DraftTek on the other hand had Roby at 34 and Ward at 42. SB Nation had Roby at 25 and Ward at 27.

                You may have liked Roby more than Ward, but saying he was clearly the better choice all along when general opinion was that both guys were borderline first/ second rounders and slotting in around the same value seems to suggest it was clear to you, but not the rest of the world. Yet you also were convinced Gilbert was the slam dunk best CB in the draft. He was terrible.

              16. Grant, those grades are the ones they gave these players before the combine. They don’t change them between combine and draft. Thus the reason Cody Latimer has a rating of 5.2 despite being considered by pretty much all the gurus as a potential first round WR by the time the draft came around.

                If you look at this years combine you’ll see the players given grades too and those won’t change between now and the draft either.

              17. Why would the combine change anything? Roby is a much better athlete than Ward. Faster, quicker, stronger, bigger, longer, more explosive.

              18. Grant, you know there is plenty of changing of draft grades that happen post combine as scouts get to spend more time reviewing and getting to know the prospects. This is especially true of guys that played in lower level football divisions such as the MAC, like Ward. And you also know these movements in draft grade aren’t just because of the combine.

                Jimmie Ward was a relative unknown until the Senior Bowl. He started moving up draft boards after that. By the time the combine came around he was already starting to be discussed as a potential 2nd round prospect. After the combine he kept moving up draft boards. Same thing happened to Latimer, but his rise was even more meteoric and happened later on.

              19. Roby was/ is a better athlete than pretty much all of the CBs drafted last year. His athletic talent was never in doubt. His instincts for the position were the question mark.

                Ward is still an excellent athlete though (check out his pro day numbers) with nice quickness and he has good football instincts.

              20. He’s not bad in man coverage. Calling it a major weakness is over stating things considerably.

                He’s better in off-man coverage at the moment though. He got himself into some trouble against fast slot WRs last season (e.g., Brown, Cooks) when he was playing closer to the LOS. He did well playing closer to the LOS in college where he was as fast or faster than the guys he was covering so he didn’t need to disrupt their routes too much, he could just mirror them. He needs to do a better job of disrupting the WRs route when he plays closer to the LOS against the faster slot WRs in the NFL.

              21. Ward is not good in man coverage. His slot coverage numbers were the worst in the league. 75 completion percentage allowed, more than 8 yards per attempt allowed and only two pass break ups. Mirroring NFL receivers is his weakness while it is Roby’s strength.

              22. His man cover skills looked ok to me.

                With those numbers for Ward, were they all in man coverage?

              23. The best part of Grant’s Roby argument is how he conveniently forgets the reason The Niner’s didn’t draft Roby. I don’t think his man coverage skills were the issue…perhaps it had something to do with allegedly almost running into a bunch of kids and then failing a field sobriety test right before the draft.

              24. A field sobriety test does not measure BAC, it involves things like walking the straight line and touching your fingers to your nose. He was arrested for DUI because of this failure. Considering the number of “how many arrests have the Niners had since 2010” stories and the “how could you play Aldon after his DUI” stories were swirling that offseason, I see why a guy who got arrested for DUI a week before the draft (no matter how low his BAC ended up being or what he plead it down to) was off their board. I had hoped he would be picked before 30 so the Niners wouldn’t have to pass on him because of the DUI arrest. Considering you were among those pushing the above-noted stories, its pretty silly to say the Niners should have taken Roby.

      3. outside of possibly Borland, any experienced vet would have done better than the other 3 during last season (signed using Stevie’s money).

        w/o Stevie, there would have been more snaps available. not just in games, but in practice to show the coaches what they have.

        1. whatnot— Exactly. Fans on this board are not considering the lack of drop off in quality of performance for those players. Even Borland being in the line up was only because of an excess of injury at that position. Except for Ward most of those players were not drafted to make an immediate impact rather for the future. Ironically it was Ward who made very little immediate impact which is what you want and expect from a first round pick. Factoring in his preseason injury and the one that took him out for the season picking him that early did not fulfill the purpose it was meant to have had. Wards value is still at this time based on purely a projected hope.

          The other players that were taken were picked for the future and that future is now. The wide receiver position is much harder to fill through either the draft or free agency than the positions of those other players mentioned. The team is presently in a position because of free agency and salary cap in a dire need at the Wr position. Whether they can fill this need is in question without giving up a lot of draft capital. It is even questionable that they have the capital to do so even it they wanted too. They should have done so last season if only because common sense dictated that they would be facing this situation this season. It was the right and most expedient move for the future. They blew it.

            1. Scooter– Everyone assumes that they needed to give up a lot of picks to land a good WR in last years draft. The draft was deep and many were still available in the latter part of the first, second and third rounds. The main point I am always trying to make is that in those other positions it is always easier to get a viable replacement with less drop off than for the WR position. Other than a shut down corner, pass rusher or QB Wr’s are the most costly in free agency in respect to cap and the hardest to find in any draft. None of the other positions are that scarce. I you have a need or a projected future need then it is in ones long term interests to take advantage of a plentiful supply while it is available. The Niner’s would have missed Ward little if at all last season. Wouldn’t have made much of a difference with him not on the roster.

              1. I would have loved to have seen the 49ers draft a WR last year, but I think CB (Ward) and OL (Martin and Thomas) can be just as hard to find good rookies at. 49ers go into this draft with those positions already sorted, which is a good thing. And they also have plenty of CB depth from the draft last year too.

                I’m nowhere near as down on Ward as you are. I thought he was alright last year bar one game.

                Once the team traded for Johnson it freed them up to draft other players. Its not the terrible move you make it out to be.

                This off-season the 49ers currently need the following:
                – A starting WR
                – A starting perimeter CB
                – A starting LG
                – A starting RB
                – A backup OLB (assuming Brooks is released)
                – A backup DL
                – 2 backup QBs
                – A backup safety

                Of those starting spots, the LG and RB will likely be filled from draft picks last year (Hyde and Thomas/ Martin). The starting perimeter CB spot may well be filled by last years draft picks too (Johnson, Reaser or Acker).

                That leaves just one starting spot that the team may need to look outside the building to fill, if we assume Patton and Ellington are unlikely to fill that role. Given it is another expected strong year for WRs in the draft and there is a plethora of FA WRs, that probably isn’t the worst result in the world.

  9. Everyone on planet Earth knows we have to draft best WR available in round 1. ….So we can bet that Baalke will not select a WR with first pick. Baalke and York automatically don’t listen to fans. We are complete idiots to them.

    1. If Baalke doesn’t select WR with first pick. He will put a spin on it… “We clearly selected the best player available”…..”We like our receivers.”

  10. SJ was the first player on my take a cut or be cut list. I expected him to take a cut but he could always be back later.

    1. Good point CfC – just because they cut him doesn’t mean he can’t return. This way he gets to test the market, but if he doesn’t get a better deal than what the 49ers were offering in a restructure then he may well decide to come back.

      1. Crab my searching skills are pure ass so I can’t find where I originally posted it but(and I know you were being sarcastic) I believe my #2 was Brooks.

      2. February 2, 2015 at 10:13 am
        Players that will either need to take a pay cut or will be cut:

        For sure:
        Steve Johnson
        Ahmad Brooks
        Craig Dahl(probably gets cut anyway)

        Patrick Willis

  11. Ian Rapoport tweeted about five hours ago the following:

    “A pay cut looms for #49ers WR Stevie Johnson, source said. He is set to make $5.5M this season. Grew into one of Kaepernick’s favorites”

    It would seem the SJ Instagram would be more accurate, but these days who knows.

    1. Grew into one of Kaepernick’s favorites
      The last 4 games before he was injured he was averaging 1 reception a game.

  12. Any chance we can sign Kenny Britt? The guy stretches the field, is still pretty young, and performed well with a subpar QB.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.