For the first time in his illustrious career, 49ers all-time leading rusher Frank Gore won’t be donning the Red and Gold.
The reliable 10-year veteran has apparently agreed to sign a three-year deal with the Colts, joining Andrew Luck and an Indianapolis squad making a high-profile push toward the Super Bowl.
Gore’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, stated on Twitter Tuesday night that Gore has yet to sign his new contract, though Colts owner Jim Irsay confirmed the signing by welcoming the new running back to the team via his personal Twitter account.
The 31-year-old’s deal is reported to contain $8.5 million in guaranteed money across the three-year span. Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area wrote that the 49ers offered — and Gore rejected — a one-year contract.
SFBay photos by Scot Tucker, Godofredo Vasquez and Trevor Will
Though Gore is hardly young by NFL standards, a one-year offer can be seen as backhanded after the amount of work Gore has put in for San Francisco throughout the years.
Gore leads the 49ers franchise in rushing attempts (2,422), yards (11,073), touchdowns (64), 1,000-yard seasons (eight) and 100-yard games (38) while earning Pro Bowl honors five times during his 10-year run with the team.
Despite his increasing age, Gore turned in an impressive 2014 season, earning 1,217 all-purpose yards while scoring five touchdowns.
Following last year’s season finale against the Arizona Cardinals, Gore stated his desire to return to the franchise that drafted him in the third round of the 2005 draft:
“Great fans, great organization. I want to be back. I wish we can get things worked out. But I also know it’s a business. I respect the other running backs, Carlos Hyde, Kendall Hunter. They’ve got the potential to be great.”
The 49ers will now presumably turn to last year’s second round pick Hyde to lead the 2015 backfield. Hyde, who will be entering his second NFL season out of Ohio State, showed potential during his rookie campaign, averaging 4.0 yards per carry on his way to 333 yards total and four touchdowns.
One area Hyde needs to improve is pass protection. Gore was one of the better running backs in the league at picking up blitzes and protecting QB Colin Kaepernick from opposing pass rushers.
Hyde could have benefitted greatly from another year under Gore’s tutelage, but the second-year youngster will have to show his ability to protect Kaepernick in order to earn significant time in the backfield, with RB Kendall Hunter slated to return after his ACL injury.
There are also reports that the 49ers could possibly be interested in RB Reggie Bush, who was released by the Detroit Lions. Bush doesn’t run with power like Gore or Hyde, but flashes great hands out of the backfield as a receiver, earning a career 3,489 receiving yards over nine years.
The 49ers may need a three-headed approach to replace a Hall of Fame-caliber running back, with Hyde being the bruising back and Bush and Hunter representing change of pace options.