Raheem Mostert's big game for 49ers shows Ravens what they 'missed out on'

Raheem Mostert's big game for 49ers shows Ravens what they 'missed out on'

BALTIMORE -- The Ravens had no use for Raheem Mostert four years ago.

On Sunday, he delivered his best performance as an NFL running back, and was a big reason the 49ers had a chance to beat Mostert's former team.

In a game featuring two of the league's top teams, Justin Tucker kicked a 49-yard field goal on the final play of regulation to provide the Ravens with a 20-17 victory over the 49ers.

The Ravens own the NFL's top-ranked offense, but Mostert was the most dynamic player on this day. He accounted for a big chunk of the 49ers’ offensive production with 146 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries.

Mostert had the most rushing yards for a 49ers player since Carlos Hyde ran for 193 on Dec. 11, 2016, against the New York Jets.

“I didn’t really have a good experience when I was here, but I made the most out of my opportunities,” Mostert said after his career-best performance. “I wasn’t holding onto a grudge, but I really did want to show the organization what they missed out on.”

Mostert joined the Ravens in mid-October of the 2015 season after being claimed off waivers. He was an undrafted rookie from Purdue who spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins before landing with the Ravens. Mostert was a special-teams ace for Baltimore over the next two months while seeing action on just two offensive snaps.

“Originally, I was playing my ass off on special teams,” Mostert said. “And I thought I was going to be here for a while.”

“I can attest that Raheem was balling, too,” said 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who played for the Ravens at the time.

But, then, things turned weird, according to Mostert.

“I was there for eight weeks already, and they decided they wanted to cut me after one game,” Mostert said. “I don’t know what the situation was. They decided they were going to cut me. I go into the office, and they tell me I’m being released and for me to go back home to my apartment. And they called me back in and said, ‘Ah, just kidding, we’re not going to release [you].’ ”

Mostert said he was cussed out by coaches for going home. One week later, the Ravens officially released him, he said.

Mostert had a brief stay with the Chicago Bears in 2016 before ending up with the 49ers.

Over the course of his time with the 49ers, he has emerged as a valued backup running back, as well as the team’s top special-teams player.

Coach Kyle Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner decided to stick with the hot hand against the Ravens after the 49ers’ ground game started having success with Mostert playing ahead of starter Tevin Coleman.

“I thought he was running great once he got in there,” Shanahan said. “I saw a few of the runs he made. He was pressing it real well.”

Said 49ers left guard Laken Tomlinson: “Raheem did a really good job of moving the rock. That definitely gave us momentum as an offense, and guys feed off that. He did a really good job with the decisions he made.”

With the 49ers down 14-7, Mostert tied the score with a 40-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He picked up big blocks from tackle Mike McGlinchey, guard Mike Person, tight end George Kittle and receiver Richie James along the way.

“He’s really fast,” Kittle said. “He was fantastic.”

[RELATED: Why Andrews had to troll Bosa in Ravens' win vs. 49ers]

Mostert received a greater opportunity in recent weeks with leading rusher Matt Breida out of action for three games with an ankle sprain. Mostert already has a career-best 539 yards and three touchdowns with a gaudy 5.9-yard average on the season.

“You got to have that mindset to go in there and play ball,” Mostert said. “I don’t really look at it, as I’m not right now. I look at it as it’s another opportunity for me to go out and showcase what I can do and be a better person and better player for my team.”

How Jerick McKinnon impacts 49ers' negotiations with Raheem Mostert

How Jerick McKinnon impacts 49ers' negotiations with Raheem Mostert

49ers running back Raheem Mostert wants a raise or to be traded. The problem for him is, he doesn't really have any leverage. Regardless of what he deserves, that's just the reality of the situation.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan favors a running back-by-committee approach. He will be able to employ that, regardless of whether or not Mostert wants to be a part of it. The 49ers have ample depth at the position, even after trading Matt Breida earlier in the offseason.

Tevin Coleman isn't going anywhere. Cutting him would result in a $2 million dead cap hit, and San Francisco can't afford to waste cap space at the moment.

Jeff Wilson scored five touchdowns on 30 total touches last season. He seemed to make a play whenever given an opportunity, and the coaching staff has plenty of faith in him.

The 49ers also signed undrafted free agents JaMycal Hasty and Salvon Ahmed, who originally might have been ticketed for the practice squad, but there's a reason why San Francisco pursued them. Shanahan has a long track record of creating productive rushers out of thin air, and Mostert's performance last season only backs that up.

But there's one major wild card in San Francisco's backfield: Jerick McKinnon.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Having signed a four-year, $30 million contract with the 49ers on the opening day of free agency in 2018, McKinnon was hand-picked by Shanahan to transform San Francisco's offense. Though never a bell cow, he offered the speed and matchup versatility that Shanahan covets. McKinnon rushed for 570 yards and hauled in 51 receptions for another 421 yards in his final season before joining the 49ers, and in Shanahan's system, the possibilities were endless.

And then, all dreams were dashed.

McKinnon tore his ACL one week before the start of the 2018 season, and then sat out the entirety of the 2019 campaign after requiring additional surgery. After not stepping foot on the field in a single game over his first two seasons with the franchise, McKinnon agreed to a pay reduction for the 2020 season that will see him make $910,000 in base salary, a sign of his commitment to the team. He was scheduled to make $6.8 million in 2020 prior to the restructuring.

Given his injury history, the 49ers would be wise to be cautious with their dependence on him. That said, he has had nearly a full year to recover from the most recent surgery, and last month his trainer said McKinnon is "in the best shape of his life."

He had been working with Rischad "Footwork King" Whitfield, and on Wednesday, McKinnon posted more workout videos to his Instagram Story.

The 49ers are optimistic they'll finally be able to unleash McKinnon this coming season, with Mostert recently going so far as to predict that McKinnon will "surprise people." If he's healthy, there's no doubt Shanahan will be itching to involve him in the offense, creating yet another potential matchup nightmare for the opposing defense. Plenty can happen between now and then, but San Francisco has to be feeling good about the progress "Jet" has put on tape.

[RELATED: How Mostert's 49ers trade demand shows price of success]

If the 49ers go into the season feeling like they can count on McKinnon, Mostert inevitably will get fewer touches. There are only so many to go around, especially with receivers Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd liable to take a few of their own. Mostert rightfully feels like he deserves a significant raise, but that's under the assumption he is going to be the lead back in Shanahan's system.

That might still be the case, regardless of McKinnon's status. But the 49ers haven't forgotten about McKinnon, and until they do, the odds are against Mostert getting what he wants.

What Raheem Mostert's agent says client wants in 49ers trade demand

What Raheem Mostert's agent says client wants in 49ers trade demand

49ers running back Raheem Mostert's trade demand carries another motive, according to his agent.

Within an hour of announcing Mostert's trade demand Wednesday, Brett Tessler told NFL Media's Ian Rapoport that Mostert "simply" wants his salary "in line" with teammate Tevin Coleman's.

Coleman's $4.55 million base salary is nearly $2 million more than Mostert's $2.575 million, according to Over the Cap. Mostert's salary is not guaranteed, whereas $2 million of Coleman's became guaranteed on April 1. Coleman can earn nearly $4.9 million after workout and roster bonuses, and Mostert can make up to $2.825 million if he hits all his roster bonuses.

[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

Mostert (151) and Coleman (158) had nearly the same number of total touches during the regular season, with each player rushing an identical 137 times. But Mostert led the team in regular-season rushing yards (772) and rushing touchdowns (eight), becoming the 49ers' top back down the stretch and having over twice as many carries (117) and touches (126) as Coleman (55; 58) from Week 13 onward.

Prior to that stretch, Mostert had 113 rushing attempts and 127 touches in the preceding 31 games. Coleman, meanwhile, signed with the 49ers as a free agent in 2019 after averaging 165.5 touches per season in four years with the Atlanta Falcons.

[RELATED: How Mostert's 49ers trade demand shows price of success]

Whether the 49ers meet either of Mostert's demands remains to be seen.

He still has two years left on his contract (including 2020), and the 49ers currently have the NFL's eighth-highest salary-cap number on running backs. San Francisco has just over $12 million in salary-cap space, but that number conceivably could diminish if star tight end George Kittle's contract extension includes a reworked 2020 cap number.

Kittle's set to count just over $2.2 million against the cap this season. Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, who has the NFL's highest cap number at the position, counts just shy of $12.5 million against the cap.