Once, Michael Crabtree was viewed as an emerging star.
The former standout wide receiver at Texas Tech steadily improved his numbers and his performance over his first four years with the 49ers. After a rookie season of 48 catches for 625 yards in 2009, he had 55 for 741 in 2010, 72 for 874 in 2011 and 85 for 1,105 – and a career-high nine touchdowns – in 2012.
But in 2013, Crabtree tore his Achilles’ tendon and played in just five regular-season games. And in 2014 – the final year of his 49ers contract – he had just 68 catches for 698 yards. His yards per catch dipped to a career low of 10.3 yards and he had just four TD receptions.
Observers noted he still hadn’t regained the speed he had before his 2013 injury, and that he no longer was the team’s No. 1 option. A frustrated Crabtree, in fact, said at one point that he’d fallen in the pecking order to become the “third option” in the passing game.
Now, it’s expected that Crabtree is a long shot to return to the 49ers in 2015. San Francisco has indicated it would be open to re-signing him, but probably not at the money Crabtree desires. He seems intent on testing the market. Recently, in fact, writer David Fucillo of the Niners Nation website noticed Crabtree had deleted any mention of his ties to the 49ers from his Twitter account.
If Crabtree leaves, the Niners would still have No. 1 wideout option Anquan Boldin, Quinton Patton, Stevie Johnson, second-year man Bruce Ellington and – very likely – a first- or second-round draft choice to work into the rotation.
But for Crabtree, it’s going to be a crowded field of free-agent wide receivers. It’s a talented crop that also includes Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Mike Wallace, Brandon Marshall, Percy Harvin, Randall Cobb, Torrey Smith, Jeremy Maclin and Wes Welker. Plus, this year’s draft is billed as rich in wide receivers.
So where will Crabtree land? Back with the 49ers, or somewhere else? One suggested landing spot has been with the Chicago Bears.
In comments to the media in January, following the team’s final game of the season and the departure of head coach Jim Harbaugh, Crabtree seemed to have no idea what his next move will be and had no comment on what the 49ers planned for the coming season.
Said Crabtree: “I don’t even know where I’m going, you know what I’m saying?”