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Report: Free agent RB Jerick McKinnon to sign with 49ers [UPDATE]

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The 49ers lost out on Dion Lewis, so Jerick McKinnon could serve as an alternative.

Fooch’s update: Adam Schefter is reporting Jerick McKinnon will sign a four-year contract with the 49ers. The deal is worth a reported $30 million ($7.5 million per year).

The San Francisco 49ers lost out on Dion Lewis Tuesday evening, but they appear set to pursue an alternative. There has been some chatter the team might be interested in running back Jerick McKinnon, and Jason La Canfora is reporting the team is a finalist along with the New York Jets. There were reports the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were interested, but nothing has come of that.

The 49ers are in the market for a running back with Carlos Hyde’s departure to the Cleveland Browns. Matt Breida and Joe Williams will compete for significant opportunities, but McKinnon would offer a bit more in the passing game. He did solid work as a rusher his first two seasons, but has settled in south of 4.0 yards per carry each of the last two seasons. However, he has emerged as a strong presence in the passing game, catching 43 passes in 2016 and 51 in 2017. This past year he averaged a career high 8.3 yards per reception. By comparison, Carlos Hyde averaged 5.9 yards per reception, and has never averaged more than 6.0 yards per reception in the NFL.

The running back market has cleared out for what the 49ers are looking for, and it will be interesting to see how high they are willing to go to land another running back. The 49ers have plenty of cap space even after whatever the Weston Richburg details show, but so do the New York Jets. Prior to any of their free agency deals, the Jets were tops in the NFL in salary cap space.

The 49ers offer a more immediate competitive opportunity, and we’ve seen what Kyle Shanahan and Bobby Turner can do with running backs. However, he might not be a pure workhorse with the 49ers, whereas the Jets could potentially offer that opportunity. Even though the 49ers are closer to contending, this could come down more to role than anything else.