Patrick Willis' contract extension has kicked off quite a bit of conversation about the 49ers payroll and upcoming free agents. We've discussed everyone from Willis to Vernon Davis to Aubrayo Franklin to Dashon Goldson. All are important players coming up for free agency in the not too distant future. And yet, amidst all this discussion, we haven't talked much about the guy who makes the offense go.
Back in March 2007, the 49ers agreed to terms on a five year contract extension with Frank Gore, which would lock him up through 2011 for approximately $28 million. Gore was coming off a 2006 season in which he set the franchise rushing record with 1,695 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Considering how blah the passing game was, that was a fairly amazing accomplishment. The 49ers offensive line was rather awesome that year in run blocking so he certainly had some help.
Since then, Gore has been nicked up on occasion and not approached the rushing numbers from 2006. However, while he has his flaws as a running back, the 49ers offense hasn't done much to help him the last few years. The addition of Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati should help, but the offensive line has some work in front of it. Of course, after last year, it should only improve.
I bring this up because as we're discussing a guy like Dashon Goldson, our stud running back will be coming up for free agency at the same time. Mike Sando made mention of some NFC West players coming up on new contracts, and aside from Vernon Davis, he also mentioned Gore. I certainly don't want to be a downer, but his future free agency is going to be a major issue for the 49ers. The question I see right now is what kind of deal do you give a running back who will turn 29 shortly after his contract expires? Given that I'm 30, I won't disparage the age of 29, but for a football player, and especially a grinding running back like Frank Gore, 30 can be an ugly number.
Although the 49ers might still extend some of their young guys in the coming months, I'm curious if they hold off on a Gore extension until a new labor deal is in place. I say that because of all the potential free agents, Gore could conceivably be the one they're looking to cut before the contract is up. I certainly don't want that, but given the realities of the NFL, particularly for running backs, it's a reality we have to consider. Given that, a new labor deal and salary cap ramifications would be important to know. I don't think the owners will suddenly agree to guarantee all salaries and that sort of thing, but changes could impact the past tradition of cutting aging veterans.
Do folks think differently on Gore's future free agency?