SANTA CLARA, Calif. — After a week he called one of the most stressful of his life that ended in a lucrative contract extension, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel was finally free on Tuesday to talk about the speculation that swirled around him during a turbulent offseason.
Samuel, who just signed a three-year extension worth up to $73.5 million and wearing a t-shirt with teammate Brandon Aiyuk on it, sat down and spent the next eight minutes answering questions about the contract saga that saw him ask for a trade in the spring, clean up his social media and ultimately overcome everything to remain a 49er.
“At the end of the day, it’s a business,” Samuel said. “So what changed was communication. The more we communicated, the more we started to understand things.”
Samuel mostly refused to go into detail on what, exactly, drove him to the point of asking for the trade in the first place. At one point, Samuel was directly asked if he regretted asking for a trade. He repeated that it was a business and that he was happy that everything went well.
But Samuel took the time to address a few points that had been raised as the source of his dissatisfaction.
Most notably, Samuel pushed back against the idea that he was unhappy with the way the Niners used him in the two-time receiver role he took on during the second half of last season and that he didn’t want to keep doing it. .
“That’s wrong,” Samuel said. “There’s a lot of things I wanted to talk about but at the end of the day I wasn’t allowed to. You can turn on the tape or go back to the Cowboys game. It kind of shows what kind of player which I am. And also you can go turn on the Pro Bowl tape and like what I said about being a wide back I don’t mind doing whatever it takes to make this team win .
About his relationship with quarterback Trey Lance, who took over since Samuel last played with the team, Samuel said it’s a work in progress.
“It’s getting better every day,” Samuel said. “It’s not hard being there with Trey. He’s ready to learn and I’m ready to learn too and we’re just going to come together and figure it out.”
From what Samuel was set to reveal on Tuesday, it seemed his biggest problem was a communication breakdown. In previous offseasons, the Niners entered into long-term contract extensions with linebacker Fred Warner and tight end George Kittle, but both of those deals came just before training camp began.
Samuel finally got the deal about five days into this year’s camp, but said he would have liked to be kept better informed at the start of the offseason. After Samuel’s trade request in April, the Niners firmly stated that they had no intention of trading him and despite receiving offers in the NFL Draft, coach Kyle Shanahan said stated that none of these offers were worth considering by the team.
That weekend, Shanahan addressed Samuel’s situation for the first time and stressed the importance of being able to meet Samuel in person so they can work through whatever is bothering him.
It’s something Shanahan brought up Monday when discussing Samuel’s extension.
“When you separate yourself from each other, not just him and me, but just him and the whole building and you leave and you know the big decisions that are coming, I think things happen,” said Shanahan. “But I think as soon as we got back near the minicamp, we were able to hang out with each other. It was pretty obvious that [we were] the same people we’ve always been and we just had to get back together and start communicating more.”
After being absent from the offseason program, Samuel arrived at the team’s mandatory minicamp in June. He had financial reasons for being there (there are fines to pay for skipping it) but Samuel said on Tuesday he planned to be there regardless.
Both parties saw Samuel’s presence at the minicamp as a natural turning point that helped bring about an agreement, even though it took over a month to do so.
“An important step was taken when Deebo made the decision to come, even though he didn’t attend, but just showed up for the mandatory minicamp,” said general manager John Lynch. “I thought that was huge…And we really hung on to that thought all along, but then I said, okay, we’re fine.”
As the summer progressed, Samuel looked for ways to distract himself from the stress of waiting and worrying about when a deal might be done. He received regular calls from teammates, such as Lance, asking about his status.
But it was tackle Trent Williams who seemed to play a pivotal role in helping the two teams come together. At one point, Samuel, who considers Williams “like a big brother,” spent a week with the Niners’ offensive tackle as Samuel said he was “just hanging out” as a way to not think about things.
Williams reminded Samuel to stay calm, offering advice from his own experience negotiating a big contract with the Niners in 2021 and pointing out to Samuel that his close relationship with Shanahan is hard to come by in the NFL.
“One thing I said to Deebo before that is you have to keep working on those relationships that are in the building,” Williams said. “Don’t really worry about what’s out there. Don’t really worry about who’s in your corner saying this or that, as you and Kyle have a great relationship. And I don’t think you should let that go. I think you’re talking to him and you being the men that you are and the respect you have for each other, I think anything can work out.”
Those words proved prophetic, even if it took a while, as other top receivers in the league received their own big contracts. After Samuel reported to camp on July 26, he did side conditioning and did not train while waiting for a deal.
Aware that something was close, Samuel said he tried to distract himself by running, training and continuing to rely on his relationship with Williams. Eventually, he got the call from his agent, Tory Dandy, that it was over, leaving Samuel speechless.
“It’s a feeling that I can’t even explain to be honest with you,” Samuel said. “I was just lost with words. It’s just a blessing to be able to be in a position that I’m in. It shows all the hard work and everything I do for this team. And, you know, I’m Just happy to be here.”