SF 49ers should reunite with veteran Frank Gore in 2021

New York Jets running back Frank Gore (21) Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
New York Jets running back Frank Gore (21) Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

The SF 49ers could use both running back depth and veteran leadership on offense, and the ageless Frank Gore would make a great story.

No, this isn’t just a sentimental SF 49ers idea… the one involving veteran running back Frank Gore, whose 16,000 rush yards place him third on the all-time rushing list after he wrapped up his 16th season with the NY Jets.

OK, well maybe it sort of is. It truly would be storybook-like for Gore, also the franchise’s leading all-time rusher, to come back to the team that took a chance on him way back in the 2005 NFL Draft. Even if San Francisco stinks in 2021, Gore alone would give fans a reason to watch games. And it would be fitting for the soon-to-be 38-year-old Gore to have one final go-around in front of a fanbase that adores him so much.

Yet there are other key reasons why the SF 49ers would make sense as a potential landing spot for Gore in NFL free agency this offseason.

For starters, there’s the depth question. The Niners have only two running backs, Raheem Mostert and JaMycal Hasty, under contract for next season. Fellow running back Jeff Wilson Jr. likely returns on a restricted free-agent tender. But even then, San Francisco could stand for some much-needed depth.

After all, all three of those runners spent considerable time on injured reserve last season.

The other two cast members from the SF 49ers roster last year, Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon, are about to hit free agency. Considering their lack of use down the stretch, it seems more than probable head coach Kyle Shanahan wants to move on.

Granted, Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner have a knack for finding and developing hidden-gem talent at the position, Hasty, Mostert, Wilson and now-Miami Dolphins running back Matt Breida being recent examples. So, at least initially, it doesn’t make sense for the Niners to use capital on luring Gore back on a would-be free-agent deal, right?

The thing, though, is Gore would likely return on a bargain-basement deal, costing the veteran’s minimum to at least provide experienced depth behind the known tandem of Mostert and Wilson in 2021.

Plus, from Gore’s standpoint, he’d be closer to competing for that elusive Super Bowl ring than he ever was with the Dolphins or Jets. That has to be a selling point, too, right?

SF 49ers need veteran leadership from a player like Frank Gore

As Sports Illustrated’s Jose Sanchez pointed out, the Niners offense is lacking veteran leadership. As he put it:

"By bringing in Gore, the 49ers will have the veteran voice in the locker room. He is also a player who leads by example, which is critical. You cannot bark at your teammates all day and not be able to back it up with your performance."

Gore is well beyond the period where he can back it up with regular performance. But his résumé speaks for itself, and no young player would think twice about Gore’s desire to push his teammates. He’s done everything that could be possibly done by a pro player, sans winning a Super Bowl.

Plus, San Francisco is entering a position where it could lose some key veteran leaders on both sides of the ball this offseason. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk is a free agent. So is cornerback Richard Sherman, and both players are the so-called “pillars” of the locker room, needed to call out teammates through adversarial moments.

While Gore wouldn’t be needed as an every-down, bell-cow tailback (that’s not his role anymore), the knowledge he brings and veteran savvy he possesses would be vital.

Even if he’s not a true fit in Shanahan’s offense.

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If for more than anything else, Gore was to return, he’d have one last shot to finish his career in storybook fashion with his original franchise. Yet he’d have the opportunity to leave a lasting mark on the team well beyond any one final year in San Francisco.