The San Francisco 49ers are speaking with Frank Gore this week at the NFL Combine as the franchise's leading rusher prepares to hit free agency. While there is still a chance the two sides work something out, reports now indicate the team might have an alternative in mind if they cannot re-sign Gore. Bleacher Report's Jason Cole is reporting the agent and executive buzz at the Combine is that the team has San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews at the top of their wish list.
Cole emphasized that Gore remains their first choice, on potentially a one- or two-year deal. He suggested Gore would be looking at $3 million to $3.5 million. The NFL free agency negotiation period begins two weeks from today, at which point agents can officially speak with other teams. Deals cannot be signed until March 10, but this period makes it easier for deals to be figured out.
Cole also said Mark Ingram could be on the team's wish list, although he did not cite any sources for that information. The 49ers currently have Carlos Hyde and Kendall Hunter under contract. If they could get a guy like Mathews for a more incentive-laden deal, that could make some sense. Mathews is talented, but he has struggled to remain healthy throughout his entire career.
If Gore does depart, I am curious to see how the 49ers set up their running back situation. Does Hyde become a work-horse back for them, or do they bring in a complementary back who can do more than just handle a few rest carries?