He will have his chances in an offense that really could use him.
Crabtree signed a six-year contract with the 49ers early Wednesday after a drawn-out negotiation process that had some wondering whether the wide receiver would ever show up this season.
"It's a lot of relief off my shoulders," Crabtree said when formally introduced at team headquarters.
Crabtree, the No. 10 overall draft pick, received $17 million guaranteed from the 49ers in a six-year deal that has a base value of $32 million and a maximum value of $40 million.
Crabtree's contract voids to five years if he has Pro Bowl seasons in two of the first four years. In that case, the base value would be $28 million.
The 49ers had previously offered a five-year deal with about $16 million guaranteed, and the sides worked hard through the night, making some tradeoff in terms of the length of the contract, as well as the guaranteed money, according to the league source. Crabtree expressed a strong desire to be a 49er during his meeting with team officials, which proceeded the heavy negotiating. The deal was completed around 2 a.m. Wednesday.
Crabtree headed out Wednesday afternoon for his first practice as the 49ers prepare for Sunday's home game against the Atlanta Falcons.
"Everybody came to a reachable agreement and it happened," said Crabtree, who sported a red No. 15 practice jersey and charcoal gray sweats. "I'm just glad I'm past that part. I'm very humble right now, man, it's a very humbling experience. Just getting a chance to sit back and better myself as a person, as a player, as a teammate. ... I feel like going through that it made me look at the world in a different way, look at my teammates a different way. Hopefully it will work out for the best."
Coach Mike Singletary called it a "fair deal for both parties involved."
Crabtree, a former Texas Tech star, was the only draft pick who hadn't signed -- and even rapper MC Hammer got involved to finally make the deal happen.
Crabtree could provide the game-breaking receiving threat the 49ers have lacked, assuming he can quickly learn the offense after missing all of training camp. He also sat out offseason minicamps and organized team activities while recovering from a foot injury, but he was a regular presence at the team's training facility.
Before Wednesday, Singletary had spoken to Crabtree only once since breaking offseason workouts in June.
Crabtree and his agent, Eugene Parker, met with three top 49ers officials Tuesday to work through his contract impasse. Crabtree balked at a long-standing offer of approximately five years and $20 million, with a reported $16 million guaranteed. Instead, he sought money comparable to what higher draft picks received.
"We came out of the gate and put a solid offer on the table," 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan said, still unsure what Crabtree's side didn't like about it. "I'm curious to find out because it goes against the norm. Very seldom do you see this."
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, the No. 7 choice, signed a five-year contract that will guarantee him at least $23.5 million. Jaguars offensive tackle Eugene Monroe, taken eighth overall, signed a five-year, $25 million contract that includes $19 million guaranteed.
Crabtree greeted his teammates Wednesday by shaking hands throughout the 49ers' locker room.
"We accept Crabtree no matter what," said tight end Vernon Davis, a 2006 first-round draft pick by the 49ers. "I think his play will speak for itself."
Singletary acknowledged last month the 49ers discussed changing their offer to Crabtree, and team president Jed York said in mid-September that the team hoped for a face-to-face meeting with the rookie. The 49ers received a call Sunday that Crabtree and Parker were en route to the area. That meeting finally happened Tuesday.
Crabtree and Parker were joined by York, vice president of football operations Paraag Marathe and McCloughan. Hammer, a friend of Parker and client Deion Sanders, also participated.
Singletary found out the deal was done when he woke up Wednesday morning.
"This is a great day for the 49ers," he said. "It showed the commitment in place in having Crabtree here. Obviously Michael missed a lot of time, a lot of valuable time, and has a lot of work to catch up."
It's unclear when Crabtree will be ready after missing so much time, but the 49ers have a bye next week. It's conceivable that Crabtree could make his debut in a limited role Oct. 25 at Houston.
"It's going to be a process," said Singletary, whose team leads the NFC West and at 3-1 is off to its best start since 2002. "Hopefully after the bye, Mike will be ready to go. Certainly it's going to start small, a small role here and there, figuring out ways to get him on the field."
The 49ers needed to sign Crabtree by Nov. 17 for him to remain eligible to play this season. There would have been a seven-week window before the 2010 draft to trade Crabtree if he didn't sign.
In August, a report surfaced from Crabtree's cousin and adviser that the rookie was prepared to sit out the season, re-enter the draft in 2010 and wait for a hefty paycheck. Crabtree wouldn't address that aside from saying: "I'm Michael Crabtree. Whatever I say is what I say."
"I know there's been a lot of things said back and forth," Singletary said. "I've always said from Day 1, until I've heard something from Michael, all the other stuff doesn't mean anything to me. I'm very excited to have Mike Crabtree be part of this time. In my mind, he has been since the day of the draft. Today really makes it official."
Crabtree caught 97 passes for 1,165 yards and scored 19 touchdowns last year, his sophomore season at Texas Tech. He finished his two-year college career with 231 receptions for 3,127 yards and 41 touchdowns.