Why the 49ers Re-Signed Ross Dwelley

On the surface, this move seems insignificant. Dwelley caught 19 passes, gained 245 yards and scored just one touchdown last season -- not eye-popping numbers.
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The 49ers just re-signed their most underrated player, tight end Ross Dwelley.

They gave him a one-year contract extension through next season. Dwelley was scheduled to become a restricted free agent, but chose not to test the market. Instead, he stayed with the team that signed him as an undrafted free agent and developed him the past three years.

On the surface, this move seems insignificant. Dwelley caught 19 passes, gained 245 yards and scored just one touchdown last season -- not eye-popping numbers. But he never missed a game, and even started in nine of them because George Kittle missed half the season. 

And Dwelley performed extremely well as Kittle's understudy. Check out these numbers: Dwelley averaged 12.9 yards per catch in 2020, and Kittle averaged 13.2. Dwelley averaged 5.6 yards after the catch per reception, and Kittle averaged 6.2. And Dwelley caught 79.2 percent of his targets while Kittle caught 76.2 percent.

Dwelley did an admirable Kittle impression, and improved tremendously in the process. And Dwelley still has room to grow. He just turned 26 in January, and could become much more involved in the passing game next season if Kyle Juszczyk and/or Kendrick Bourne sign elsewhere in free agency.

Dwelley is a terrific route runner with exceptional hand-eye coordination and long arms -- that's why he catches such a high percentage of the passes that come his way. He can replace Bourne as the designated third down/red zone possession receiver -- Dwelley has not dropped a pass in his career. And he can replace Juszczyk as the starting fullback as well if necessary.

All for a cheap one-year deal.

Don't be surprised if Dwelley has a big-time breakout season in 2021.