In 2019, the 49ers were the second-best running team in the NFL.
With a fine offensive line and Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman slashing through defenses, San Francisco gained 2,305 yards on the ground and averaged 4.6 yards per carry.
What if that threesome becomes a foursome in 2020?
According to 49ers general manager John Lynch, running back Jerick McKinnon – who hasn’t played a single regular-season snap for the team since signing a free-agent deal two years ago – appears primed to get back on the field this season.
McKinnon signed a four-year deal worth as much as $30 million back in 2018, but injuries have kept him off the field except for a few preseason snaps. The team owes him about $6.5 million in 2020 and $6.9 million in 2021, a steep price for a back who hasn’t yet shown he can play again. He tore a knee ligament his first season, then suffered an aggravation of that injury in 2019.
Yet McKinnon, who had four productive years with the Vikings before coming to the Bay Area, is still just 27 years old. If he’s healthy, he’s a terrific receiver out of the backfield (94 catches in 2016 and 2017) and ball carrier (1,109 yards in that same span) who would give the Niners perhaps the deepest, most talented and versatile group of backs in the league.
And, McKinnon sounds willing to take a pay cut to stay with the team.
"I’m willing to do whatever," he told ESPN’s Nick Wagoner recently. "The organization knows I want to be a part of this team, so when that time comes there will be a talk between both parties."
Lynch, too, seems willing to keep the door open.
"I would tell you we would like nothing more than to see him actually on the field," Lynch told reporters this week at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. "That’s no fault of Jerick’s. That’s just the way it’s been. We admire the way he’s worked through the various issues that he’s had and we would love to see that through in some form or fashion. I think this week will be important talking to his representatives and trying to find something that works for both sides to come back and see Jerick on the field."