Pierre Garcon: Will Reliability Become a Liability in the NFC WEST?

Niners Live now kicks off its free-agent series with an in-depth breakdown of Wide Receiver Pierre Garcon, raw and uncut, as only we know how to do by thinking outside the box and asking the question: Will Reliability Become a Liability in the NFC West?


The recap:

On the eve of free agency, General Manager John Lynch and the San Francisco 49ers agreed to terms with Pierre Garcon on a reported five year, $47.5 million contract. Garcon’s signing bonus is $12 million. In 2017, he has the opportunity to make up to $16.025 million and a chance to earn $23 million over two years. Twenty million of that is guaranteed. So is his 2017 base salary of $3.675 million (via Master Tesfatsion of the Washington Post). Also to note, two years of the deal are like dummy years ,per Mike Garafolo.

Highlights of 2016:

It may seem hard to argue with the acquisition of Garcon, being he was ranked as the 24th best free agent per Pro Football Focus top 50 free agents of 2017. In 2016, at the ripe age of 30, Garcon amassed an impressive 79 receptions for 1041 yards. His 85.8 rating was good for 8th best in the league, and considering 110 targets this past season, he dropped only one pass. What more could you ask for in terms of having a receiver you can count on? Not only reliable, he’s also a dependable blocker, as he even had a solid blocking grade all while showing his ability to beat people with speed and power while gaining yards after the catch.

What does Garcon bring to the Table?

By signing Garcon, head Coach Kyle Shanahan instantly amplified the 49ers offense with a proven playmaker. The move seemed to be inevitable after Garcon posted a picture of himself on Instagram a few weeks ago with the caption #YallHiring?  Pierre Garcon’s main issue is advancing age, because, on play alone, he would probably be a much hotter commodity. In 132 games played over the course of his nine-year career he has accounted for 564 receptions for 7,068 yards at a 12.5 yard per catch average. Garcon also brings familiarity and a high comfort level of trust from Shanahan. Garcon played under Shanahan in 2012 and 2013 with the Washington Redskins, turning in his best season production-wise in 2013 with 113 receptions and 1,346 yards receiving.

Who is Pierre Garcon?

Garcon, originally a sixth-round pick in 2008 of the Indianapolis Colts, is one of two players ever drafted out of the University of Mount Union, a Division III school. Garcon was, and still is, a terrific athlete with elite straight-line speed and a big, physical target with strong hands to match his good leaping ability. He possesses above average balance and body control, has a quarterback friendly catching radius and a knack for making acrobatic grabs. He is a competitor who does not shy away from contact or blocking assignments. However, throughout his career, Garcon has been somewhat inconsistent. He has always been a much-to-be-desired route runner and lacks quickness and acceleration off the line of scrimmage (scouting report via Yahoo.com). Also, five more things to know about Garcon (via the team’s website).

Does Pierre Garcon’s delivery of leadership equate to impact plays and high-level production?

In nine years, Garcon has only posted two 1,000-yard seasons and never caught more than six touchdowns in a season in his entire career. However, one of those years did end in a career-high with 1,346 receiving yards and he led the league with 113 receptions in 2013. Note: He’s never accounted for more than six touchdowns in a season, he has also yet to put together back-to-back seasons in which he has registered at least 800 yards or more (via ESPN.com).

So based on the trend, should we expect a thousand-yard season in 2017?

Will newly signed quarterback Brian Hoyer target Garcon 116 times to barely squeak by with 1k yards, I mean 1,046 to be exact, as Washington Redskins’ quarterback Kirk Cousins did in 2016? Great questions. We knew you were going to ask that. We will all know soon enough, that’s for sure…. Garcon, standing at only 6’0 and 211-pounds, doesn’t exactly fit the mold of your prototypical number one receiver.

Is Kyle Shanahan looking to Garcon to be his heir apparent X receiver? A la Julio Jones, who stands at 6’3 and 220-pounds? If that’s the case, he may need to keep on searching. Jones, on the other hand, has eclipsed 1,000-yards four times in only six seasons and notched at least eight touchdowns in three of his six seasons. At times during the Atlanta Falcons 2016 run to the Super Bowl he looked like an unstoppable force. Does Garcon really fit that mold? Hold that thought…..

Will Garcon live up to his contract obligation?

It seems as if the new regime may be more concerned with paying for reliability, leadership, and scheme comfortability rather than high-quality production and an on the field difference maker/impact aka a “game changer”. Is Garcon that guy? Or a shell of himself on the decline? I know we’re bold and we ask tough questions on Niners Live, but tell me you haven’t thought of the same thing behind closed doors yourself without using a homer lens? Ok, see, that’s what we thought. It’s not like he’s in the glory days of his football life any longer either, going into what will be his 10th season in the league. The reality is, at the soon to be age of 31 years old, how much will he realistically have left in the tank? With a player who has that much mileage already over the course of his career, it may seem a bit unrealistic to have high expectations of him past year one, speaking of his multi-year deal as aforementioned, of course. On top of that, you are asking him to carry the load as a number one option. Especially since he’s typically been used as a number two or three option in the past, and now will be matched up against the opposing teams’ best defensive backs.

Did the new regime also account for how he would match up against the NFC West top caliber defense backs?

Will Garcon be able to come out on top having to battle against the likes of 6’3 Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks, 6’1 Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals or even 6’2 Tremaine Johnson of the Los Angeles Rams, barring he stays with the team? All these players are physically dominating pro-bowl caliber types who have made their mark being shut-down corners in this league.

Highly important to note: Since 2012, Garcon has only produced two total touchdowns and zero 100-yard receiving games in eight games against NFC West Opponents.

Did the 49ers already have a better, more cost-effective option in Torrey Smith?

How does Garcon fare in comparison with former 49ers’ wide receiver Torrey Smith’s contract numbers and career production? Well, for starters, he has amassed a total of 37 touchdowns in nine seasons while in just six seasons, Torrey Smith has yep, you guessed it, 37. Note: only seven of Smith’s touchdowns happened in the last two seasons, as a member of the 49ers playing with arguably two of the most unproductive offenses in NFL history. Smith’s Career average yards per catch is 17 while Garcon’s is only 12.5.

Oh, and the contract Smith signed with the Eagles was for a modest three-year, $15 million with only $500,000 in guaranteed money (per Ian Rapaport ).

Smith has also not had the luxury of playing with the likes of other great talents such as fellow teammates/playmakers Marvin HarrisonReggie WayneDallas Clark, who Garcon played with early in his career in Indianapolis. Not to mention the plethora of talent with the Redskins, including this past season having Desean JacksonJamison Crowder and Jordan Reid to spread the field and make life easier on him in the latter years.

I’ll leave you with this:

Yes. Pierre Garcon will serve as a mentor, provide leadership, knows Kyle Shanahan’s system, is a pros pro, still has respectable speed with a mix of power and very reliable hands. However, there is a reason the Washington Redskins did not make a push to sign Garcon at the age of 30. The coaches there wanted him to be more versatile. He preferred to remain at the X, or split-end spot in the offense, and per reports out of Washington, he requested a trade early last year.” (Via BleacherReport.com).

Did the 49ers overspend for declining production? Was this signing more about comfortability?

It certainly seems it could very well be the case. There is always the possibility that Garcon turns out to be a valuable key piece to the 49ers rebuild and return to glory process, and that’s a best case scenario situation all 49er fans will be hoping for indeed.

On a Niners Live side note:

Would it have made more sense to go after a bigger bodied athlete such as the 6’4 and 240-pound Terrell Pryor? Niners Live recently discussed him in our feature article: The Rise of Terrelle Pryor: Why Pryor is a high Priority Signing For the 49ers. Washington Redskins sure thought signing Pryor to a one-year deal worth $8 million (ESPN.com) was the right move to make, and quite frankly a steal as Pryor chose to bet on himself. Wait, what? Did you say eight million? That sure does seem like a real steal for a guy who, in his first full year at playing receiver, racked up over 1,000 years receiving and has the upside to be a force to reckon with in the immediate and foreseeable future. You live with Pryor’s areas of opportunity with some drops and route running, etc., because he’s a matchup problem for your division first and foremost, as aforementioned.

Lastly, how much is Garcon getting paid again? Are your eyes wide open?

As always, keep your eyes wide open, 49er fans. Niners Live will be watching with you. #eyeswideopen and often imitated but never duplicated… Go Niners.

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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Irvin Johnson Staff Writer at Niners Live. Co-Author, Editor Niners Live.