The 49ers this weekend made an under-the-radar trade that provided the offense with some much-needed experience.
Slot receiver Jeremy Kerley might not be a household name, but Torrey Smith is the only pass-catcher on the 49ers who has produced more in his NFL career.
The 49ers acquired Kerley in a trade with the Detroit Lions for offensive lineman Brandon Thomas, a third-round pick in 2014 who never played a regular-season snap for the team.
“I’ve been a quick, shifty receiver all my life,” Kerley said. “That’s what I did in New York, exploit some mismatches. Whatever these guys need, that’s what I’m here for.”
Kerley (5 foot 9, 188 pounds) appeared in 74 games with 24 starts in his five seasons with the Jets. He caught 182 passes for 2,225 yards and nine touchdowns. In 2012, he posted career-highs with 56 receptions for 827 yards while starting seven games.
The 49ers did not show interest in Kerley as a free agent in the offseason, he said, so the trade came as a total surprise to him. The 49ers will pick up the $760,000 base salary on his one-year contract he signed with the Lions.
The 49ers made the move to add Kerley to compensate for the loss of slot receiver Bruce Ellington, who sustained a torn hamstring on Friday night against the Green Bay Packers and is scheduled for surgery. The 49ers placed Ellington season-ending injured reserve on Tuesday.
Kerley said his first impression of the 49ers’ playbook was favorable. The 49ers’ base offense consists of three receivers. DeAndrew White is the team’s only other healthy slot receiver.
“It seems like there are opportunities to make plays,” Kerley said. “That’s the good thing about it. That’s why I’m excited.
“This is another opportunity for me to showcase my talents. That’s what I’m looking forward to doing, getting back in a groove.”
Kerley said he is not sure whether he will play Thursday night when the 49ers close out the exhibition season against the San Diego Chargers. He said he will have to cram and “live in the playbook" to get ready to play a major role once the season begins Monday, Sept. 12, against the Los Angeles Rams.
“I guess that’s all on me, how much I can take in this playbook,” Kerley said. “I’ll baby-step it, take it one day at a time, but I’m excited about it. I’m eager about the opportunity, and I’ll make the most of it.”