The Buffalo Bills effectively parted ways with running back C.J. Spiller on Tuesday, as they dealt for Philadelphia Eagles running back Lesean McCoy. Spiller acknowledged as much on an NFL Network interview, and will start looking for a new team when the negotiation period starts. Well, he will "officially" start looking.
The list of potential suitors could already be developing, and ESPN's Josina Anderson has heard the San Francisco 49ers could be one of the teams that looks into the free agent running back.
The 49ers running back situation is a question mark with Frank Gore hitting free agency. He has been the starting running back since 2006, and developed into the franchise's all-time leading rusher during that time. The team drafted Carlos Hyde last year, and also has Kendall Hunter on the roster heading into the new league year. There has been talk that both sides are interested in Gore returning, but it appears he will get a chance to test the open market.
If Gore departs, Spiller would be an intriguing complementary option to Hyde. Spiller is a speedy guy who could be a strong weapon in the passing game. One problem with that though appears to be his pass protection skills. According to Brian Galliford at Buffalo Rumblings, Spiller is one of the worst in the league. In recent years, pass protection has been a significant factor for running backs. It is possible that was strictly a Harbaugh thing, but I suppose we'll find out more about Trent Baalke's philosophy as this offseason moves along.
The real question will be what kind of money Spiller is looking for in free agency. He at least acknowledged as much prior to the McCoy trade:
C.J. Spiller on NFL Network: "I would be lying to you if I said it wasn't about the money."— Matthew Fairburn (@MatthewFairburn) March 3, 2015
The 49ers do have some cap space to work with, but not a ton. Hyde showed some things last year, and Spiller has not proven to be the kind of guy who can be a clear-cut starter. He can get a sizable number of snaps, but there needs to be another option alongside him. It is possible nobody in the league will pay Spiller what he thinks he deserves, but it is too early to tell right now. The free agent negotiation period begins on Saturday, and we'll start to get at least some idea of things when that gets going. I suspect he signs fairly quickly, so final resolution will hopefully happen next Tuesday or Wednesday.