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Are 49ers preparing for Kendall Hunter's eventual return?

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The San Francisco 49ers reached an injury settlement with running back Kendall Hunter at the end of the preseason. Could they already be planning a potential return?

The San Francisco 49ers placed Kendall Hunter on injured reserve as part of their final roster cuts, and later came to terms on an injury settlement. This could mean nothing, but the team has left his name plate above his locker, with gear all settled there. The picture above comes from this Carlos Hyde interview earlier in the week. It could mean nothing, but it is a little bit interesting nonetheless.

Hunter suffered a torn ACL a year ago, and spent the offseason working back from the injury. He played in the final two games of the preseason, rushing 17 times for 36 yards, and catching three passes for 13 yards. He looked rusty, but he got the two games worth of action.

After the team made their final roster moves to close out the preseason, Tomsula was asked about Hunter and the injury settlement. Specifically, he was asked whether the team would add him back later in the season:

"Yeah. I'm not going to get into all that. I think everybody here knows how I personally feel about Kendall Hunter. And it's unfortunate. He had to get that thing cleaned up again. But, and however that all works, I'm not going to tell you that I'm all the way into the workings of the rules and things. I mean, I know you're at the settlement, when the settlement's done, you've got six weeks before you come back. I'm educated enough in that sense, but he's got the, he can get that thing right and be ready to go."

The injury settlement made Hunter a free agent, but also opened the door for an eventual return to the 49ers. According to Over The Cap, Hunter is listed with $152,647 in dead money. He had $50,000 in prorated signing bonus money, and a $25,000 workout bonus. If we subtract those out, we are left with $77,647. Hunter was signed to a base salary of $660,000. If we divide that by 17 weeks, it comes out to $38,823 and change. If we then multiple that by two weeks, we get $77,647 and change, or what the remaining dead money is.

When a player reaches an injury settlement, he can sign with any of the other 31 teams immediately. If he wants to re-sign with the team that just released him, he has to wait the length of the settlement plus six weeks. If the numbers above are correct, that means the 49ers could re-sign Hunter after Week 8. The 49ers face the Rams in St. Louis in Week 8, and then host the Atlanta Falcons in Week 9, before hitting their bye week.

Hunter can sign anywhere, but given that he had the ACL injury a year ago, and the Achilles prior to that, it is not a surprise he has not landed elsewhere. Reggie Bush's calf strain has provided Jarryd Hayne and Mike Davis opportunities behind Carlos Hyde. Neither has wow'd to this point in the regular season, but they have some time to get more work in. It will be interesting to see if some kind of change is made in early November when Hunter is eligible to return to the 49ers.