The San Francisco 49ers needed to find a running back this offseason, and one of the names people immediately jump on was Dion Lewis. He brought the mix of skills, particularly in the passing game, that made sense in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Lewis eventually signed with the Tennessee Titans, and the 49ers ended up signing former Minnesota Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon. The 49ers declared McKinnon and center Weston Richburg their top priorities. Usually, we’ll never know if it’s just lip service, or what the actual plan was. However, in this case, the contracts might just tell the tale.
The 49ers signed McKinnon to a four-year deal worth up to $30 million. He gets $11.7 million fully guaranteed at signing, and an additional $6.3 million in injury guarantees. The Titans signed Lewis to a four-year deal worth up to $19.8 million. He gets $5.75 million fully guaranteed, and another $2.5 million in injury guarantees.
The basic math suggests the 49ers valued McKinnon higher than Lewis. Some people will agree with that valuation, some people will disagree, but this is one instance where we can mostly figure out what the team’s valuation of competing free agents looked like to a certain degree.