The 49ers finally landed the high-impact receiver they've been seeking since the start of free agency. ESPN reported today that the team had reached agreement with former Browns and Jets receiver Braylon Edwards on a one-year, $3.5 million deal.
Edwards, 28, was on the team's short list of candidates when it had the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft. The group included cornerback Antrel Rolle and quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith. Edwards (6-3, 214) spent his first four seasons with the Browns before being traded to the Jets in 2009. He made the Pro Bowl after a prolific 2007 season in Cleveland in which he caught 80 passes for 1,289 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. The 49ers haven't had a 1,000-yard receivers since Terrell Owens had 1,102 yards in 2003.
Last season he had 53 catches for 904 yards and seven touchdowns. Perhaps most impressive was his 17.1 yards-per-catch average in a Jets offense that didn't exactly excel in the passing game. That average ranked 11th in the league among receivers with 20 or more catches.
The 49ers are looking for a starting caliber receiver for two reasons. The first is that their top wideout, Michael Crabtree, reinjured the same left foot on which he had surgery before the 2009 draft. He is in a walking boot and stands to miss several weeks. If he remains on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list when the regular season begins, he will have to miss the first six weeks of the season.
Another reason is that the current starters at receiver, Joshua Morgan and Ted Ginn, are both going into the final year of their contracts. The 49ers have depth at the position in Kyle Williams, Kevin Jurovich, rookie Ronald Johnson and Dominique Zeigler. But none of those players have any experience as a starter.
During the draft, general manager Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh noted that the team was looking for high-character players. Baalke said that those players had gold stars next to their names on the team's draft board. Edwards likely has no gold stars.
The receiver has had a number of run-ins with the law both in Ohio and New York, including an assault charge in Cleveland and a DUI incident in New York. Edwards was recently linked to a fight in a Michigan bar that left two bouncers with stab wounds. On Thursday, McConnell Communications of Detroit issued this statement on Edwards' behalf:
"What occurred last weekend at South Bar was very unfortunate. However, Birmingham Police have indicated that Braylon was not involved. Mr. Edwards intends to cooperate fully in any inquiry, but because this is an ongoing legal investigation, we can not comment further."
-- Matt Barrows