The San Francisco 49ers surprised a lot of people last week when they signed Jerick McKinnon to a four-year, $30 million contract that included $11.7 million in 2018 guaranteed money. It made him among the highest paid running backs in the NFL, even though he had never had more than 159 rushing attempts, and his career high in rushing yards was 570.
Kyle Shanahan has a big plan in mind for McKinnon, and it is no surprise he and the 49ers front office went all in on the running back. New York Jets beat writer Manish Mehta wrote on Monday that the Jets “engaged in a full-court press to sign [McKinnon],” but, “Kyle Shanahan was bent on not getting beat in the bidding.” Mehta reported the competition also included the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and potentially others, but the 49ers and Jets were the two finalists.
Plenty of 49ers fans seemed hopeful the team would land Dion Lewis when free agency got going. Lewis ended up signing with the Tennessee Titans, for a deal that included half the guaranteed money McKinnon got from the 49ers. We’ll never know what interest the 49ers might have had in Lewis, but their deal with McKinnon suggests Lewis was further down the list.
McKinnon has not put up overly impressive stats in his four NFL seasons, but he has shown a versatility that is easy to get excited about in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme. Bleacher Report analyst Doug Farrar broke down film on McKinnon and provided a rundown of the ways Shanahan could use him to create mismatches.
The big talk has been about what McKinnon can do in the passing game, but Kyle Shanahan and Bobby Turner have done a lot of big work with running backs that flew under the radar. This signing could very well end up a bust, but it’s hard not to get excited based on Shanahan and Turner’s track record.
That being said, whether you agree or disagree, head over and vote in our McKinnon approval poll.