***Update*** Just got confirmation from Johnson's agent, Joel Segal, that Johnson has a one-year deal with the 49ers. It's official.
Isaac Bruce, Darrell Jackson, Arnaz Battle, Jason Hill, Ashley Lelie … and now Bryant Johnson? ESPN is reporting that the 49ers and Johnson, the former Cardinals receiver, have agreed to terms on a one-year deal. The 49ers don’t confirm deals until the player’s name is on the dotted line so don’t expect any official word from 4949 Centennial for a while.
When Mike Martz was hired as offensive coordinator, many expected the 49ers to go after smaller, shiftier receivers like the ones Martz had in St. Louis and Detroit. Johnson is quite the opposite. The former first-round draft pick of the Cardinals stands 6-3 and weighs 215 pounds. In fact, he fits the mold of the big receiver who can block downfield that the 49ers have favored in previous seasons.
Johnson has been overshadowed in a lineup that features Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, but he has filled in well in 2007 when those receivers were injured. Johnson was a first-round pick in 2003 who was eclipsed by the Cardinals' second-round pick that year, Boldin. Arizona's receivers coach that season was Jerry Sullivan.
Following a pattern of the 49ers’ other free-agent pick-ups, one of Johnson’s best games last year came against the 49ers when he caught five passes for 80 yards and nearly caught a game-winning touchdown in the corner of the end-zone. Defensive back Donald Strickland – burned by Johnson a play earlier – knocked the ball from Johnson’s hand at the last second. Indeed, the Cardinals often looked to the big-bodied Johnson for goal-line touchdowns.
Why Johnson? If the report is correct, the 49ers likely felt there was little risk with a one-year deal. The team is in good salary-cap shape and needs all the competition it can get at the underachieving wide receiver spot. GM Scot McCloughan has said that Bruce and Jackson are his top wideouts. Coaches always have loved Battle while Hill is heading into only his second year. The team also could add a wideout in the middle rounds of the upcoming draft. In other words, it’s a full house …
-- Matt Barrows