The 49ers today signed wide receiver Jerome Simpson to a two-year deal, proving that they are still willing to take chances on players with troubled pasts.
Simpson, 29, didn’t play in 2014 and has been in legal trouble three times since 2012. In January of that year, Simpson, then a member of the Bengals, was arrested after he had 2 1/2 pounds of marijuana sent to his Kentucky home. He was sentenced to 15 days in jail and three years' probation on a drug-related charge.
The next year, he was arrested on suspicion of DWI and later pleaded guilty to careless driving and refusal to submit to a breath test. In July he was cited for violating a limited license, marijuana possession and open bottle after being pulled over in a traffic stop in Minnesota.
Earlier this offseason, team owner Jed York used “winning with class” as a mantra during a press conference about the end-of-season parting with head coach Jim Harbaugh. However, the concept apparently won’t keep the 49ers from finding bargain-rate players in free agency.
The team has taken chances on other players with checkered pasts in recent offseasons, including a trio of cornerbacks -- Perrish Cox, Eric Wright and Chris Cook. Cox in particular has made the most of his chance. He took over a starting role last season when Tramaine Brock was injured in Week 1 and led the 49ers with five interceptions.
He and Cook are poised to become free agents next week, and both could be back with the team. Wright appeared in several games for the 49ers in 2013 but retired the following year.
Simpson, meanwhile, could provide the 49ers offense with something that’s been missing in previous years -- a wideout with deep speed. He ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in 2008 and averaged more than 15 yards per catch in 2013 with Minnesota. According to Pro Football Focus, 21.5 percent of Simpson's targets during his two years in Minnesota were 20 or more yards downfield.
Said Trent Baalke at the combine last month: "I think it's no mystery we're looking for guys that can run and get down the field,"
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.