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12:30 PM ET

  • Nick WagonerESPN Staff Writer Close
    • Covered Rams for nine years for stlouisrams.com
    • Previously covered University of Missouri football
    • Member of Pro Football Writers of America

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers are expected to sign wide receiver Pierre Garcon to a lucrative new contract when the new league year begins on Thursday. The deal can't be finalized until Thursday at 4 p.m. ET, but ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Wednesday that it will get done and it will include $16 million in the first year.

Upon putting pen to paper, Garcon will reunite with coach Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan was Garcon's offensive coordinator with the Washington Redskins in 2012 and 2013.

Terms: Not yet known but Garcon is expected to receive $16 million in the first year.

ESPN 150 ranking: No. 10

Grade: B — The 49ers have a serious and pressing need for help at wide receiver, a need magnified further by the release of Torrey Smith. The money for Garcon is certain to raise some eyebrows, but the 49ers have plenty of cap space and adding Garcon not only makes them better at receiver but gives them a veteran leader with knowledge of Shanahan's system who can help install the offense.

What it means: There was never any doubt the Niners would be aggressive entering this free-agent market, and this is probably just the first of a few dominos to fall. It's an encouraging sign for the Niners that they were able to land Garcon in what figured to be a competitive market. They're a team in a rebuilding phase that currently has no quarterback on the roster so if they had to overpay a bit, it's understandable. It also won't prevent them from making other big moves in this free-agent period. Garcon enjoyed his best NFL season with Shanahan in 2013 (113 catches for 1,346 yards and five touchdowns) and is coming off a solid 2016 that would indicate he still has some good football in front of him. It's also worth noting that the Niners are expected to be in the mix to land Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins at some point, even if it's not until 2018. Having Garcon, who has been one of Cousins' favorite targets the past two years, in place would only make San Francisco a more attractive destination.

What's the risk: From a purely football perspective, Garcon is more of a No. 2 receiver and it looks like the Niners will be paying him something closer to a No. 1 (at least in the early part of the contract). He's also 30 and though he produced last year, it's fair to wonder how much longer he'll be able to put up numbers commensurate with his contract. That's especially true given the fact nobody knows who will be throwing him the ball moving forward to maximize this signing. Still, even if the Niners are a few years from being contenders again, most of Garcon's guaranteed money probably will come early in the deal so if he's not producing by then, they would be able to move on without much of a cap hit. In the meantime, Garcon is instantly the team's best receiver and can offer guidance to a young receiver corps and offense. Even after this move, the Niners should continue to search for help at the position, perhaps with a top draft prospect who can play opposite Garcon and soak up his knowledge of the offense.

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