The 49ers did not waste time in making waves in free agency, with Pierre Garcon’s signing the headliner among a host of deals.
San Francisco also signed quarterback Brian Hoyer, speedy wideout Marquise Goodwin, fullback Kyle Juszczyk, tight end Logan Paulsen, linebacker Malcolm Smith and kicker Robbie Gould.
They are also reportedly set to sign quarterback Matt Barkley and wideout Aldrick Robinson.
But it is Garcon who is the 49ers’ top acquisition and, while the report that the former Redskin receiver could earn $16 million in his first year — per Niners Nation— may raise some eyebrows, it is a reasonable price to pay for a wideout who is familiar with Kyle Shanahan’s offense and should be a reliable target for Hoyer or whoever is playing quarterback.
Garcon enjoyed his best season since 2013, when Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in Washington, in 2016, catching 79 of his 114 targets for 1,041 yards.
Dropping just one of his catchable targets in 2016, per Pro Football Focus, Garcon has excellent hands and, though he is now 31, possesses a skill set that makes him worthy of the front-loaded contract the 49ers are giving him.
Having played nine seasons in the league, Garcon’s experience shines through in his route-running, which he relies on more than his speed to create separation.
He also has a clear understanding of route depth and when to break off his routes to gain the yardage for a first down.
At 6-foot-0 and 211 pounds, Garcon has the frame and quickness to gain inside leverage against press coverage and only needs a step on the cornerback to make it count.
Combine Garcon’s capability for beating defenders inside and making catches in traffic, which he does on the below play with three Packers defenders converging on him, and you have a receiver who excels on the short-to-intermediate routes over the middle.
But that is not to say Garcon is not a downfield threat, he may be more quick than fast but has enough speed to gain separation deep when afforded too much space by defenses.
And when he is unable to win deep with his physical tools, Garcon utilizes that intelligence he has a route-runner, with this double-move he performs to free himself of a Bears defender a fine example of Garcon’s proficiency in that aspect of his game.
Perhaps the only area of Garcon’s game that is superior to his route-running is hands, he demonstrates exceptional ball-tracking and looks the ball into his hands, averaging a catch percentage of over 60 in each of his six seasons in Washington.
He is a target who can consistently be called on to come through and, after topping 1,300 yards in Shanahan’s offense in 2013, is heading back to that system along with a quarterback in Hoyer who is also familiar with it.