Running back Jerick McKinnon’s time with the San Francisco 49ers hasn’t gone according to plan.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan sought out McKinnon to be the pass-catching back in his offense, leading to the team signing the 28-year-old to a four-year $30 million contract. Unfortunately, Jet tore his ACL prior to the 2018 season, causing him to miss the entire year.
The team was excited to get him back in 2019, but general manager John Lynch said McKinnon suffered a setback during rehab in August of last year which required another surgery, meaning he was going his miss second straight season.
Lynch was on Matt Maiocco’s podcast and shared what McKinnon could bring to the team in 2020:
“We’re pulling for Jerick and it would be huge for us because we had a clear vision of what he could bring to us. We thought he’d be excellent in terms of [being a receiver out of the backfield], really, a tough guy to match up with in space. And our [coaches] are really good about putting our guys in space. So that would be tremendous for us.”
The Niners restructured McKinnon’s deal, which was originally for $6.8 million a year, to the veterans minimum of $910,000 for next season.
It will be tough for Jet to beat out the 49ers running backs ahead of him on the depth chart. Raheem Mostert established himself as the lead runner late last season and veteran Tevin Coleman will get his share of touches. Jeff Wilson is the goal line specialist in Shanhan’s offense, so McKinnon can carve himself out a role as the third-down back.
If McKinnon can get back close to 100% he will give San Francisco another weapon for Shanahan to find mismatches for coming out of the backfield, similar to how he does with fullback Kyle Juszczyk.
With Mostert, Coleman and Wilson only combining for 38 receptions last season, McKinnion could figure to be the main passing down back. He finished the 2017 season with 51 receptions while with the Minnesota Vikings.
This isn’t 20 years ago where tearing an ACL usually meant a player wouldn’t be the same when he returned, but I’m not too optimistic that McKinnon will get back to being his former self as a player after not playing in an NFL game for two years.
Regardless, Jet will be battling for a roster spot at training camp, and if his knee holds up, he could have some big plays for the Niners next season.
Are you expecting McKinnon to have an impact in 2020? Or do you the knee injury will be too much to overcome?
Onto some more links:
George Kittle is the 49ers’ best player. The tight end has been a beast since being picked in the fifth-round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Pro Football Focus went back and graded all of the 2017 selections and Kittle ends up being right near the top. (h/t NBC Bay Area)
The Niners are up against the salary cap as they pursue a Super Bowl championship in 2020. San Francisco could potentially have 34 free agents after the season, Casey Lima of 49ers Web Zone ranked those players in order of importance.
Lynch and Shanahan came in and did a great job of changing the culture of the 49ers. They have brought in the right support staff and retained all but two of their starters going into next season. Josh Dubow of The Press Democrat says continuity could be key for the Niners as they chase a sixth Super Bowl win.
With Emmanuel Sanders departing in free agency, second-year pass catcher Deebo Samuel will be the Niners’ No. 1 receiver next season. Samuel is a playmaker who can turn on the jets at any point, who is putting in time to improve his footwork this offseason. (h/t NBC Bay Area)
Las Vegas sportsbooks have set San Francisco’s over/under win total at 10.5 for the 2020 season. USA TODAY’s gambling experts weighed on how they would bet on the 49ers projected totals going into next season.