Keeping Jeremy Kerley a sensible, low-cost move for 49ers

Jeremy Kerley posted a career-high 64 receptions for 667 yards last season. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers and wide receiver Jeremy Kerley are quickly developing a tradition of completing transactions just before some important deadlines.

The Niners traded for Kerley in late August, just before the start of the regular season as a replacement for slot receiver Bruce Ellington, who suffered a season-ending hamstring injury. Kerley went on to become the team's most productive receiver in 2016.

On Saturday, less than a week before the start of free agency, the Niners and Kerley came to an agreement to keep him in San Francisco. The team confirmed that Kerley agreed to a three-year contract after ESPN's Adam Schefter and Adam Caplan reported Kerley had a deal worth $10.5 million.

Even with a new regime in place in coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch, Kerley did enough to earn an extended stay in the Bay Area. It showed on the tape when he was evaluated.

"We are very excited to be able to keep a player and teammate like Jeremy in red and gold," Lynch said. "As we evaluated the roster, his production on the field really impressed us and we believe he is a great fit for our scheme. As we learned more and more about him, it became obvious his teammates have a great deal of respect for Jeremy as well. He is a true pro who is an asset to this team on offense, special teams and in the locker room."

Kerley initially arrived in San Francisco after a trade with the Detroit Lions on Aug. 29 of last year. Then-coach Chip Kelly promptly threw him into the mix as the slot receiver, and Kerley impressed with his ability to adapt quickly. He went on to post a career-high 64 receptions for 667 yards and three touchdowns while also serving as the primary punt returner.

With Kerley in the fold, the Niners can at least enter free agency with the knowledge that they have a capable slot receiver who can offer some production and veteran guidance to a young group. At what appears to be a modest price, keeping Kerley around is a logical move for a team that still must add some help at wideout, especially on the outside.

As it stands, the 49ers have Kerley, Torrey Smith, Ellington, Chris Harper, Aaron Burbridge, Eric Rogers and DeAndre Smelter under contract for 2017. Quinton Patton, who was a starter last year, and Rod Streater are scheduled for free agency.

At this week's scouting combine in Indianapolis, Shanahan made it clear that upgrading at receiver will be a priority this offseason.

"I feel we’ve got a bunch of good players that we feel we can compete with, and we know we’ve got to add some too," Shanahan said. "We’re going to add as many as we can to help our roster, and we also want to add some competition.”

Even after re-signing Kerley, the Niners look to have around $90 million in salary cap space as they head toward free agency. All of which is to say that while the Niners have signed one receiver already this offseason, it's a safe bet he won't be the last.