49ers find familiarity in pricey veteran receiver Pierre Garcon

Garcon gives Shanahan a familiar face to work with (0:59)

Ed Werder explains why Pierre Garcon signing with the 49ers makes a lot of sense. (0:59)

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

Upon putting pen to paper, Garcon will reunite with coach Kyle Shanahan, who 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 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 the first of a few dominoes to fall. It's an encouraging sign they were able to land Garcon in what figures 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 nobody knows who will be throwing him the ball 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.