It's a scary thought to imagine what the San Francisco 49ers would look like without Frank Gore in the backfield. It's even scarier that Gore is threatening it. Entering the final year of his contract that pays him just shy of $5 million, the bellcow wants an extension and is willing to walk if he doesn't get it.
"If it doesn't happen, then I'm going to have to go out there and show everybody that I'm healthy," said Gore. "I'll have to test the market, that's what I'll have to do." And with Deangelo Williams receiving a 5-year, $43 million contract with $21 million guaranteed from Carolina, Gore and his super-agent Drew Rosenhaus are reportedly looking for the same.
As the consistently productive workhorse for the 49ers, there is no reason that he shouldn't receive his big pay day. He's rightfully earned it. The 49ers aren't spending money on a top-flight passer in the league and they tend to pay players who lead the kind of career Gore does.
Patrick Willis and Vernon Davis were both rewarded with extensions somewhat recently and if anyone is next in line, it should be "The Inconvenient Truth." But management appears to be hesitant given his laundry list of injuries. However, if you look at the injuries, they go all the way back to his days at the University of Miami and he has overcome all of them with no drop-off in his performance.
When Gore is on the field, he is a guaranteed all-pro running back on every down. His most recent injury, a fractured hip, hasn't appeared to have slowed him down. Another issue is his age; Gore is approaching 30, the dreadful number that usually begins the decline in a running back's game. In addition to that, the halfback has been an easier position to secure given all the talent out there.
NFL teams are accidentally running into their franchise backs nowadays. We saw it first hand last year with the Cleveland Browns getting lucky on Peyton Hillis in a trade and the Houston Texans cashing in on the undrafted diamond in the rough, Arian Foster. Gore himself wasn't even a first round pick, as many of the great backs have proved you don't need to be.
The inconvenient truth is, coach Jim Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke might feel that Gore is replaceable. Personally, I would love to see Gore come to terms with the team on a contract that would see him retire a 49er. But with newcomers Anthony Dixon and Kendall Hunter panning out as a productive one-two punch behind Gore, anything could happen.
The New York Giants didn't come upon their Superbowl victory until the year after Tiki Barber retired and they depended on the tandem of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. When Barber left, Eli Manning had full control and veteran leadership over the team -- at least that's how Tiki recalls it.
I doubt the 49ers would be better without Gore, in fact, I think the idea of him playing for anyone else but San Francisco is preposterous. But the league has shown us time and time again, that it is a business. Jerry Rice, Roger Craig and Ronnie Lott played for Oakland, and Joe Montana played for Kansas City; weirder things have happened. We can only hope they make the best decision for the team going forward.
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