The 49ers, who were expected to go after a wide receiver in the NFL draft Friday, landed one hours before the second round began.
The team acquired veteran Stevie Johnson, who was born in San Francisco and went to high school in Fairfield, from the Buffalo Bills for a conditional draft pick next year. The fourth-round selection can improve to a third-rounder if certain undisclosed parameters are met.
Johnson, 27, was a productive – and controversial – receiver with Buffalo but became expendable when the Bills drafted Sammy Watkins in the first round Thursday. Johnson had 52 catches for 597 yards and three touchdowns in 12 games last season and more than 1,000 receiving yards in each of the three previous seasons.
“Today’s decision was not an easy one to make, especially involving a player like Stevie,” Bills general manager Doug Whaley said in a statement. “We wish him (the) best of luck with the 49ers and his NFL career.”
Johnson also caused the Bills a few headaches. He was fined three times after illegal end-zone celebrations, including a $10,000 fine in 2011 after he pantomimed shooting himself in the thigh, a dig at New York Jets opponent Plaxico Burress, who served 20 months in prison on a weapons charge after accidentally shooting himself in a New York City nightclub in 2008.
Johnson also raised eyebrows following a relatively unproductive and injury-filled 2013 season when he told the Buffalo News he didn’t work out that offseason.
At 6-foot-2, 207 pounds, Johnson, a seventh-round pick out of Kentucky in 2008, has size and has been a dependable possession receiver, averaging 12.7 yards a catch over his career. However, he does not have the speed the 49ers presumably are seeking at the position.
The other veteran wideouts on the roster include starters Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree, as well as Brandon Lloyd, Quinton Patton, Kassim Osgood and Devon Wylie (Granite Bay High School). Crabtree is signed through the upcoming season; Boldin is signed through 2015.
Johnson is under contract through the next three seasons, although the last two years are at salaries approaching $6 million.