Today marks the 31st birthday of 49ers work horse running back Frank Gore. It is not quite as big a milestone as turning 30 last year, but given where Gore is at in his career, every birthday is worth noting. Gore is entering the final season of his contract, and the future is nebulous at best. He could still sign a modest extension to spread out his remaining cap hit, or he could be playing out the final season of his 49ers career.
It's not a fun topic to discuss given how great he has been for this team, but the 49ers have been smart enough to consider the future. This year marked the sixth straight season the 49ers have taken a running back in the draft, and the fourth straight year it was in the fourth round or higher.
The 49ers head into the 2014 season with Frank Gore leading a group that includes Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore, Carlos Hyde and Jewel Hampton. That is a group that could do some great things in 2014, but there are also enough question marks that we don't know what the long-term future holds. Gore and Hunter are entering the final year of their respective contracts. James has been the subject of trade rumors. Lattimore has not played in a game in a year and a half. And Jewel Hampton spent last season on the practice squad. There's a ton of talent, but also enough questions that we're left in somewhat of a wait and see approach.
For now, Frank Gore seems pretty likely to continue his starting role for a ninth straight season. I imagine Gore will want plenty of work, but would it surprise anybody if he ended up with a lower number of carries, and quite possibly a career low? The 49ers added Carlos Hyde to an already dynamic backfield that could see the return of Marcus Lattimore. They also traded for Stevie Johnson and drafted Bruce Ellington. There are a whole lot more weapons. Ideally, Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman will not be so stubborn as to ignore the potential of spreading out the offense a little bit more. But even if they do, the number of running back options alone would seem to cut down on Gore's workload.
How do you see the birthday boy playing out in 2014? A normal workload, or do things change with this group?