Lloyd would bring a playmaker and insurance at WR
The word going around the NFL is that Brandon Lloyd’s for sale. Are the 49ers interested? They should be. Jim Harbaugh said he’s “not going to speculate on anything” when NinersDigest asked him Friday about the team’s interest in adding a starter-quality WR now that Josh Morgan’s season is over. But Lloyd, matured since his last 49ers fling, is a guy the Niners should consider for several reasons.
Reason No. 1 is the most obvious: The 49ers are a team that is going somewhere this season, and teams going places in the NFL need as many offensive weapons as they can get, particularly at wide receiver in today’s pass-happy league.
Reason No. 2: The 49ers need immediate help at wide receiver after losing Morgan for the season. Contending teams, to remain that way, need to replace lost playmakers with new playmakers when they have that opportunity. That’s the best way to prevent the ripple effect that comes with losing a player like Joshua Morgan, San Franciso’s leading producer among wideouts before breaking his right leg last week.
Reason No. 3: Morgan, Braylon Edwards and Ted Ginn Jr. all are free agents at the end of this season. There is no guarantee any of them will return to the 49ers next year. At least one of them probably won’t. The Niners need to increase their short-term options at the position, options other than starting over again with another draft pick next year.
Reason No. 4: Lloyd no longer is the carefree, me-first guy with the laissez-faire attitude he was portrayed to be during his three seasons with the 49ers from 2003-2005, and he might actually welcome a return to his first NFL home and the opportunity to play for a team with a winning future after spending most of his career with losing clunkers.
Those who remember Lloyd during his earlier stint with the 49ers might quickly guffaw at the suggestion and say there are more reasons not to consider Lloyd. He did not exactly ingratiate himself with the organization or develop a reputation for strong work ethic and being a team-oriented guy.
Lloyd was by far the team’s most explosive and productive receiving threat his final two years with Niners, but he did it almost as an outcast on two of the worst 49ers teams that you will ever see in your lifetime.
Before we go on, a little background: I got to know Lloyd pretty well when he was a 49er and could go to him for off-the-record questions and get a sincere answer. I learned more about the person and individual while doing a magazine piece on his venture into rap music and his debut album, “Training Day.”
Lloyd’s Southern California producer, Adam Weisner, raved about Lloyd’s passion and focus, telling me there was “no half-assing it,” when it came to Lloyd committing himself to something. “The man is dedicated to football first and foremost. He’s a football player. That is what he does,” Weisner said.
Fast forward to last season: I had an opportunity to catch up with Lloyd last December when he returned to the Bay Area with the Denver Broncos to play the Oakland Raiders. At his locker long after that game had finished, Lloyd appeared pleased to see a familiar friendly face.
Lloyd led the NFL in receiving yards at the time, and was on his way to a Pro Bowl season that would see Lloyd finish with career-high totals of 77 catches for a NFL-best 1,448 yards and 11 touchdowns. His 18.8-yard average per catch was the third-highest since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger.
But Lloyd didn’t want to talk about his newfound success. Instead, he told me how fortunate he felt to still be getting the opportunity to do it after bombing at his previous NFL stops in Washington and Chicago. He talked about feeling privileged to play this game for money.
There were no airs about him, a definite change from his San Francisco days. What I saw and heard was a highly-skilled athlete who had matured with age and experience.
I give you this history lesson because the Denver Post is reporting that Lloyd is on the trading block and the Broncos are listening to offers for his services before Tuesday’s NFL trade deadline. The newspaper cites a source claiming “three or four” teams have expressed interest in Lloyd.
There has been speculation that the 49ers are one of those teams.
There would be no point in asking Harbaugh specifically about Lloyd during his Friday news conference before the 49ers hit the road for their big showdown of first-place teams in Detroit this weekend. Harbaugh doesn’t discuss things with the media such as trades, personnel moves, injuries … and lots of other things, for that matter.
So I tried tactfully to ask, with Morgan out for the year and the trade deadline coming up fast, how interested the Niners would be in perhaps adding a starter-quality wide receiver if available via trade, knowing full well that Harbaugh wouldn’t bite at the question.
He didn’t even take a nibble.
“Again, not speculating on potential guys that are out there,” Harbaugh replied. “We’re always looking and assessing the perils and merits of anything that can help our football team. So, everything always with one purpose, and that’s to help make us a better football team. Not going to speculate on anything.”
Lloyd would make the 49ers a better football team, for a lot of reasons. I could give you another list, but let’s just say Lloyd’s spectacular hands and acrobatic athleticism would be a nice complement to Edwards and Michael Crabtree in the passing game once crunch time begins next month and the real playoff teams begin to emerge.
He would also provide some insurance against another injury at wide receiver completely devastating that already thin unit. Even if the 49ers are only renting Lloyd for the rest of the season, that is the kind of move that emerging playoff teams make.
Watching Harbaugh work wonders this year with a roster that has gone eight years without a winning season, it’s tantalizing to imagine the impact the coach could have on Lloyd, and also what Harbaugh could do incorporating Lloyd’s skills into his offense.
And if all goes well, you’d have to believe Lloyd would consider making San Francisco his NFL home again beyond this season. Lloyd, now 30, is in the last year of his contract and becomes a free agent in March.
Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke have been conservative in their personnel moves since teaming up in January, particularly when it comes to acquiring free agents. They got Edwards on the cheap. They’ve handed out mostly one-year deals, even to No. 1 cornerback Carlos Rogers, who is giving the 49ers outstanding play at an extremely vital position.
Making a serious play for Lloyd would involve some risk. It might cost a mid-round draft pick. It could include a calculated leap of faith.
But after almost a decade of being on the outside looking in, the 49ers – already on their way to running away with the weak NFC West – are nicely positioned to allow a bold move that could make them even better.
Did somebody say Brandon Lloyd? The 49ers, to be sure, should at least be listening.