Late last season, it seemed almost certain that Frank Gore was on his last legs as a 49er.
The veteran running back -- who will turn 32 this May -- was having a subpar season in the last year of his contract.
His age and salary didn’t line up with the 49ers' plans.
But now, after Gore’s late-season brilliance showed he’s still effective, the team appears intent on bringing Gore back for another season. Gore rushed for more than 300 yards combined over his final two games to finish with more than 1,100.
Niners general manager Trent Baalke, speaking to reporters at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this week, said, “We’re going to do what we can to get him back as a 49er.”
New head coach Jim Tomsula, also in Indianapolis, echoed Baalke. Tomsula, in fact, said the team was in negotiations with both Gore and wide receiver Michael Crabtree.
“Those talks are happening this week,” Tomsula said at a news conference, reported Marc Sessler of NFL.com. “I don’t have the checkbook, so I’m not in those particular conversations, but I do know that leaving San Francisco, heading to the airport the other day, that everything was lined up to talk to all of our people.”
Generally, running backs decline rapidly after age 30. But Gore has remained in top condition, forged by challenging offseason workouts, and has brought much more to the team than his talents as a ballcarrier. Players and coaches have cited his leadership, work ethic and hard-nosed approach as a plus for the entire team. He remains one of the NFL’s best-blocking running backs, particularly in pass protection.
Said Tomsula: “I’m a big Frank Gore guy.”
If he does return, however, it likely will be for less money than the $6.5 million he earned in each of his past two seasons. Baalke told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee that the team and Gore are trying to work things out.
“We’re still working on it,” Baalke told Barrows. “It’s not something that’s going to get done yesterday. It’ll take some time to resolve. It’s our intention to have Frank back.”