NFL free agency: Why 49ers should not bring back RB Frank Gore

SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 20: Running back Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers runs the ball in the first half against the San Diego Chargers at Levi's Stadium on December 20, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - DECEMBER 20: Running back Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers runs the ball in the first half against the San Diego Chargers at Levi's Stadium on December 20, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Running back Frank Gore will enter the 2018 NFL free agency after a three-year tenure with the Indianapolis Colts. Despite their need for a feature back, the San Francisco 49ers shouldn’t sign their all-time leading rusher and here’s why.

General manager John Lynch and the 49ers have plenty of positional needs to address in this year’s NFL free agency. Notably one of San Francisco’s biggest holes to fill is the running back position.

Considering the front office does not re-sign Carlos Hyde, the 49ers would need to find its next starting running back.

Although Matt Breida posted solid numbers during his rookie campaign in 2017, head coach Kyle Shanahan will still likely pursue an every-down back either in free agency or the draft.

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San Francisco might also see second-year running back Joe Williams as a potential starter. However, because he is coming off a season-ending ankle injury, Williams’ future is uncertain.

This year’s draft class features a plethora of talented running backs from Saquon Barkley to Ronald Jones II. Thus, the 49ers could look into the draft to find a starting-caliber running back.

Lynch and Shanahan might also explore their options in the free-agent market, which will consist of big-name running backs such as Dion Lewis and Doug Martin.

Among the running backs hitting free agency, Frank Gore has also been one of the biggest names circulating around San Francisco this offseason. Primarily, Gore’s connection to the 49ers is his 10-year run with the team in which he became the franchise’s all-time leading rusher.

Within the decade he spent in San Francisco, Gore garnered 11,073 rushing yards averaging 4.5 yards per carry. Gore then signed with the Colts in 2015 and totaled 2,953 rushing yards in three seasons.

A number of fans have shown interest in bringing back Gore to the 49ers. In support of this possibility, FOX Sports Senior National Writer Peter Schrager makes a case for San Francisco to sign Gore:

While a reunion between the two sides seem desirable, there are reasons why Gore would not be a great fit with the 49ers. Especially with the new regime behind Lynch and Shanahan, here are some pointers San Francisco should consider before offering Gore a contract.

Gore will turn 35 years old before the 2018 regular season

May 14 will be Gore’s 35th birthday and so the veteran running back’s career is slowly dwindling down.

Gore’s age is a big factor since he might be able to only play for one or two more seasons. Many NFL teams might believe Gore has lost his step and the explosiveness he once had.

His age may also be the reason why his numbers have been slightly decreasing during the past few years. Having played all 48 games with Indianapolis, Gore only broke through the 1,000-yard mark once in 2016.

Frank Gore Rushing & Receiving Table
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Though, considering running backs don’t typically last long in the league, Gore’s 13-year career so far has nonetheless been impressive.

The 49ers front office could then show interest in signing Gore due to his consistency, durability and veteran leadership. However, the team seems to want younger players in every position, lowering Gore’s chances of landing in San Francisco.

Gore does not fit Shanahan’s offensive scheme

While he is an excellent power runner and pass blocker, Gore coming to San Francisco would not make sense in a schematic standpoint.

Gore flourished under former 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman. But in Shanahan’s complex and high-octane offense, Gore would not be a great fit.

NBC Sports Bay Area reporter Matt Maiocco spoke about the possibility of Gore returning to the 49ers. He stated:

"He wants to play somewhere that makes sense for both parties. But I do not believe the 49ers will be that team. He is not a great fit for what Shanahan wants from his offense at this stage."

Shanahan’s playbook takes a long time to grasp and thus, Gore might need more than a year to acclimate himself to the new system. Shanahan also prefers to have a more dynamic back who can play as a reliable runner, receiver and blocker.

As a result, the 49ers might look elsewhere in free agency or the draft for a running back who would fit Shanahan’s offense like a glove. Especially with the team’s new direction, San Francisco will likely look for a younger player they can sustain for years.

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Gore will have less touches and chances to start

Gore wants to sign with a contending team in which he can start, according to The Sacramento Bee reporter Matt Barrows. As he enters his last ride in the NFL, Gore is looking to play where he can finally win a Lombardi Trophy.

Ranked to have the seventh best odds of winning the 2019 Super Bowl, San Francisco could be one of those teams.

Gore could sign with the 49ers to achieve this goal, but in the expense of receiving less touches. In addition, Gore might not even start if he were to play in San Francisco again.

Therefore, Gore may rather retire as a 49er despite not playing his final season with his former team. In his Q&A column, Maiocco added:

"But when I brought up the subject of Gore returning to the 49ers on a ceremonial contract after he has played his final NFL game, Gore could not have been any more enthusiastic. That will almost certainly happen."

Next: NFL free agency: 5 under-the-radar free agents 49ers should consider to add depth

Even though Gore will unlikely spend his final NFL season in San Francisco, it would be a sight to see when his No. 21 jersey goes up the rafters. Gore was a 49er through the ups and the downs and he should retire and be remembered the right way in red and gold.