In the 2011 NFC championship game, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith threw nine passes to his receivers. One pass was completed — to Michael Crabtree — for 3 yards. To his tight ends and running backs, Smith went 11-of-17 for 193 yards and two touchdowns. For a team that went 13-3 in the regular season and came very close to the Super Bowl, the 49ers had one glaring need coming into the offseason. They had to upgrade their receiver corps to bridge that small gap between them and the big dance.
On Monday, the 49ers made a move that may prove to be a stop in the right direction, signing Randy Moss to a one-year deal after a tryout. According to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area, Moss arrived in the Bay Area on Sunday night and spent Monday running the route tree with head coach Jim Harbaugh throwing him passes for about 15 minutes at the team’s practice facility. Before that workout, Moss passed a physical at Stanford University.
Moss had recently gone through a tryout with the New Orleans Saints, reportedly blowing people away with 4.4 speed. But Moss didn’t play at all in 2011 after a dismal 2010 season in which he played for three different teams (the New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans) and caught just 28 passes for 393 yards and five touchdowns.
There’s still interest in what Moss can bring to the table, even at age 35, because he was so explosive at his best. He’s been the point-man of the two highest-scoring offenses in NFL history — the 1998 Minnesota Vikings and 2007 New England Patriots — and he was able to beat double teams with ease for so many years. Moss has always been thought of as a one-route receiver, but when he played for the Patriots, Tom Brady famously called Moss the smartest player he’d ever played with.
Currently, Moss ranks ninth all time in career receptions (954), fifth all time in career receiving yards (14,858) and second in receiving touchdowns (153).
With the 49ers, Moss will be an interesting fit. Head coach Jim Harbaugh runs a conservative offense in which explosive plays are not the norm — it’s an old-school system in which ball control and physical dominance rules the day. Smith was not spectacular in 2011, but he threw just five interceptions. He engineered 41 plays of 20 yards or more, which put him in the middle of starting quarterbacks last season, but Smith had just six plays of 40 yards or more. That’s where Moss might come in.
You can certainly expect the 49ers to explore other receiver options in free agency and the draft, especially if they lose speedster Josh Morgan to the open market.