The 49ers invested a fourth-round draft pick last season on veteran Stevie Johnson to be the team’s No. 3 wide receiver.
Johnson’s salary jumps to $6.025 million this season, slightly more than No. 1 wide receiver Anquan Boldin is scheduled to earn.
That has led to speculation the 49ers will release Johnson, as NBC Washington reported on Saturday morning. But a league source told CSNBayArea.com on Saturday that report is “false.”
It is not clear, however, what Johnson’s status with the 49ers is for the 2015 season. He is currently under contract with the organization through 2016 after coming to the 49ers in a trade with the Buffalo Bills.
Rather that just rent Johnson for one year at the expense of a valuable mid-round draft pick, the 49ers would likely first make a strong effort to retain Johnson at a salary that fits into the team’s pay structure before parting ways with him.
The 49ers have yet to approach Johnson about a possible pay cut, a source confirmed to CSNBayArea.com. The 49ers are under the salary cap with the new league year set to begin on March 10, so there is no urgency to clear cap space.
Because he arrived in a trade, Johnson does not have any proration on his 49ers contract for cap purposes. The team would stand to save his full $6.025 million salary with an outright release.
Johnson was the 49ers’ third-leading receiver last season with 35 catches for 435 yards and three touchdowns. He did not appear in the final three games of the season due to a knee injury.
The 49ers are expected to add to its group of wide receivers in the offseason. Boldin, Johnson, Bruce Ellington and Quinton Patton are the only returning wide receivers from last season who remain under contract.
The 49ers’ No. 2 wide receiver, Michael Crabtree, is scheduled for unrestricted free agency on March 10. Pending free agents are allowed to begin to enter into negotiations with other teams on March 7.
Crabtree caught 68 passes for 698 yards and four touchdowns last season. Brandon Lloyd, who caught 14 passes for 294 yards and a touchdown, is also a scheduled free agent.