For several years now, the 49ers have been looking for a deep-threat wide receiver.
Finally, they have their man.
On Tuesday, San Francisco signed free-agent wideout Torrey Smith of the Baltimore Ravens, one of the NFL’s best long-ball threats.
Smith, just 26, reportedly signed a five-year deal for $40 million, including $22 million guaranteed, according to ESPN.com.
Smith, a second-round pick of Baltimore in 2011 has terrific speed and, in combination with the strong arm of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, was a consistent deep threat in his first four seasons in the league. He’s averaged 16.9 yards per catch, the fourth-best average in the NFL (among receivers with at least 100 receptions) since 2011. And, as Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle noted, his 19 catches of 40 or more yards matches the total number of 40-yard-plus catches by all Niners receivers since 2011.
This past season, Smith had a career-best 11 TD catches and had 49 receptions for 767 yards. His best season was 2013, when he had a career-best 65 catches and 1,218 yards.
But Smith comes with pros and cons.
While he’s a bonafide big-play receiver with speed to stretch defenses – and should be able give quarterback Colin Kaepernick a chance to connect on more deep routes than ever before – some believe Smith isn’t a top receiver because of inconsistency. He’s averaged only 53 catches and 898 yards per season. One general manager, who chose to remain anonymous, last season called Smith a “one-trick pony” because he’s not a complete receiver; he’s a deep threat but not a consistent target on all types of routes, including short ones.
Plus, he’s had trouble with drops. This past season he had 11 drops, the second-most in the NFL – and not a good number in comparison with 49 catches.
Plus, his catch rate is low. Over his career, he’s been targeted 434 times and has 213 catches – a 49.1 success rate. But part of that can be attributed to the routes he’s running, too. Almost 33 percent of throws to him have been “deep targets” of more than 20 yards.
And the other side of that argument is that Smith has 42 deep-target catches and 15 deep-target TD plays over four seasons.
So, in combination with Anquan Boldin, Smith gives Kaepernick a pair of experienced playmakers with different skill sets.
As Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com noted, 49ers GM Trent Baalke said at the NFL Combine that he was seeking a home-run threat for Kaepernick.
“I think it’s no mystery we’re looking for guys that can run and get down the field,” Baalke told Gutierrez.
In Torrey Smith, the 49ers have that guy.