Contract Season: Will the 49ers Re-Sign Kendrick Bourne in 2021?
The 49ers brought most of their 2019 team back to make another run at the Super Bowl in 2020. But in 2021, the 49ers probably will look much different, because they will have 26 unrestricted free agents, and 16 of them have started games for San Francisco.
The next few weeks, we will analyze the big-name players on this list and predict which ones the 49ers will keep after the upcoming season, and which ones they won’t.
Today, we predict wide receiver Kendrick Bourne’s future.
Boure probably shouldn’t even be on the team right now.
He made the 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2017 -- unlikely -- and started eight games in 2018 after Pierre Garcon broke his neck. But in 2019 during training camp, Bourne dropped lots of passes and almost played his way off the roster, until Trent Taylor broke his foot, and Jalen Hurd broke his back. So Bourne basically made the team by default.
But he wasn’t a starter. He was the fourth wide receiver on the depth chart after Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis and Deebo Samuel. Bourne became a key member of the offense only after Goodwin and Pettis lost their starting jobs, which was Week 7. Yes, those two combined to start 10 games last season, and the 49ers won all of them. Amazing right?
Back to Bourne. He never actually became a starter last season. He established himself as the No. 3 receiver behind Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders, whom the 49ers acquired at the trade deadline.
Meaning Bourne never really earned that spot in the pecking order. But when he got it, he performed well. Exceeded expectations. Including the playoffs, he caught 54 passes, gained 28 first downs and scored six touchdowns. And Jimmy Garoppolo’s quarterback rating was a whopping 113.7 when he targeted him. Impressive.
Bourne became the 49ers’ secret weapon. When they needed someone to make a big catch on third down or in the red zone, and the whole world expected George Kittle to get the ball, head coach Kyle Shanahan often called a play for Bourne. And Bourne often came through.
Now Bourne is the best healthy receiver on the 49ers roster -- Deebo Samuel broke his foot and will miss the next three to four months. So Bourne should start Week 1 and have an even bigger role in the offense next season than last season.
But that doesn’t mean the 49ers will re-sign him in 2021.
They could have given him a multi-year extension this offseason, but didn’t. Instead, they picked up his restricted-free-agent tender, which is a non-guaranteed one-year deal worth slightly less than $3.3 million.
If Bourne becomes a full-time starter and plays well in 2020, which is likely, some team probably will see him as a quality No. 2 or No. 3 receiver, and pay him $6 million or $7 million per season.
Will the 49ers be that team?
They have other young wide receivers they took with high draft picks -- Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Jalen Hurd, for example. The 49ers probably envision them as the top-three receivers in 2021. And I’m sure the 49ers would love to keep Bourne as a reliable No. 4 receiver, but they can’t pay him $6 million to $7 million per season to come off the bench. Not when every other 49ers wide receiver makes so much less.
The 49ers and Bourne need each other for one more season. After that, I predict they’ll split up, and Bourne will sign somewhere else.