Set adrift by the New York Jets, Braylon Edwards has finally found a new team. With the free agent market for his services not matching his expectations, Edwards will reportedly sign a one-year deal with the 49ers.
In San Francisco, Edwards will immediately move into the starting line-up with Michael Crabtree out with a foot injury. If Crabtree is out for an extended period of time, Edwards will start opposite Josh Morgan, who will likely move to a reserve role when Crabtree returns.
Given their salary cap situation, the expectation entering free agency was that the Jets would have a difficult time re-signing Edwards and that proved to be the case.
With Edwards after a lucrative long-term extension, the Jets moved quickly to sign Plaxico Burress, agreeing to a $3-million, one-year deal with the former Giant. Reports indicate Edwards will receive just $3.5-million from San Francisco.
Edwards decision to sign a short term contract with the 49ers in hopes of having a solid season and hitting the market as a free agent in 2012 is a curious one. While his size and speed would seem to indicate that is a good fit in the West Coast offense new 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh will run, Edwards has not proven adept at running short patterns, in part because of his questionable hands.
In New York, he was used almost exclusively on intermediate and deep routes. After a pair of disappointing seasons, he played well in 2010, making several big plays on his way to a 53-reception, 904-yard, seven-touchdown performance.
The issue for Edwards is that 49ers starting quarterback Alex Smith has never proven capable of connecting with his wide receivers on deep patterns. His preferred option on those plays is tight end Vernon Davis and that is not expected to change in 2011.
Edwards’ upside in 2011 is similar to what he produced in 2010 and that would make him a WR3. However, the more likely scenario is a reduction in big plays and touchdowns. Grab him as a low end WR3 if you have to but feel more comfortable with him coming off your bench as a bye week fill in and injury replacement.