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The San Francisco 49ers receiving corps could use some additional depth, and they may get it without needing to spend in free agency or the draft. Travis Benjamin, who signed with the 49ers last season before opting out due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is eager to return to the club for the 2021 campaign.
Benjamin, 31, talked to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle about his difficult decision to opt out of last season. While the choice was best for him and his family, he watched on Sundays eager to get back into Kyle Shanahan’s offense where he spent the 2014 season with the Browns.
“I’ve been at peace with it,” Benjamin told the Chronicle about his decision. “But there were times on certain Sundays where I’d see somebody make a play and I’d be kind of antsy about it. In the back of your mind, ‘Oh, that could have been me. If I would have played, I would have made that play. If I would have played, I would have blocked for this guy. If I would have played, I would have been in a situation where I could have made the team better.’”
With a rash of injuries in the receiving corps last season, it’s hard to imagine Benjamin wouldn’t have been an improvement on the depth chart. The 49ers wound up dipping into their practice squad on more than one occasion, and wound up giving offensive snaps to River Cracraft (112 snaps), Dante Pettis (66), Mohamed Sanu (40), Jordan Matthews (14) and Kevin White (9). Benjamin would’ve likely provided an upgrade over any of those five players.
While San Francisco’s receiving corps has a couple of excellent playmakers in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, they lacked a true deep threat who can take a top off the defense. Benjamin’s speed could be a tremendous asset in a receiver group built mostly around after-the-catch ability and physicality. He told Branch he worked hard to keep his speed over the year away, and that speed could wind up being a key factor in making the contributions this season that he couldn’t make in 2020.