San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke made an unannounced visit to the media room in Levi's Stadium on Saturday, and he had a chance to discuss a host of topics. Cam Inman and Tim Kawakami have the most comprehensive reviews of his comments.
One topic Baalke touched on was Kendall Hunter. The 49ers running back suffered a torn ACL during Friday's practice, and is likely going to spend the rest of the year on injured reserve. Once the season wraps up and we get into March, Hunter could become a free agent if the 49ers do not extend him before then. Baalke said the team would llike to have Hunter back:
"We'd love to have Kendall. Kendall is a tremendous football player and even better young man. What's the likelihood? It's not worth speculating at this point, but Kendall and his representative know how we feel about him."
Normally Jim Harbaugh is the guy talking about bringing players back. He said the 49ers should re-sign guys like Josh Morgan and Dashon Goldson, although that might have been more part of a good cop/bad cop routine with Trent Baalke.
Prior to the injury, I figured there was a pretty good chance Hunter would walk in free agency. The 49ers are continually adding new weapons to their backfield, and running back is one position where teams are not giving out a ton of money, unless it is a truly premier back. Hunter is a very talented back, but we're not talking about Jamaal Charles or Adrian Peterson or anybody like that.
Frank Gore will be a free agent after this season, while the 49ers will likely still have LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore, Carlos Hyde, and even potentially Jewel Hampton. If they return those guys, do they try and bring back Hunter? Or is Hunter more likely to move on for another opportunity? Hunter is probably most likely looking at something along the lines of a league minimum deal to show he's back from the ACL injury.
But even then, he might be best suited going somewhere with a bit more of an opportunity. The 49ers backfield will not be quite as stacked next year (well, pending additional moves), but there is a lot of talent there. I imagine Hunter could find another team where the running back situation is much less resolved, and thus, he could have a shot at more work, and thus a bigger long-term deal down the road.
How do you see this playing out with Hunter? Will he be back with the 49ers in 2015, or does he end up elsewhere?