Frank Gore hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to the NFL for a 17th season.
Many have speculated the former 49ers running back laced up his cleats for the final time in Week 16 for the New York Jets, but he’s leaving the door open for 2021.
“I'm going to get some downtime with the fam, get back to Miami and chill out with my kids. Then I'll see what's up,” Gore told ESPN, via 95.7 The Game. “I still have fun playing the game of football, but I haven't made a decision yet.”
Canton can wait.
Gore, who turns 38 in May, might have a tough job finding a job this year after rushing for 653 yards and two touchdowns. You can’t argue with his career résumé, which includes 16,000 rushing yards across 16 seasons. Only Hall of Famers Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton recorded more rushing yards in their careers.
Gore amassed 9,967 yards in a San Francisco jersey, and has said he’d like to retire as a 49er when the time comes. But at this point, it makes more sense for the 49ers to sign him to a one-day contract rather than a one-year deal.
Gore simply is not the same player he was when he left San Francisco in 2014. His output has been on the decline since then, bottoming out with his 3.5 yards per carry in 2020.
The fact that this is even a conversation is a testament to Gore’s longevity and intelligent running style. He's always had a nose for finding creases in traffic while being able to avoid the big hit. Considering he overcame two ACL injuries in college, it’s amazing Gore still is an NFL running back in his third different decade.
Gore is an all-time great, but there’s no room for a sympathy player on the 53-man roster. Each spot is valued by the coaching staff, and Gore’s production would be a liability at this point.
The 49ers have some decisions to make when it comes to their running backs. Raheem Mostert is under contract for 2021, but Jerick McKinnon is an unrestricted free agent and Jeff Wilson Jr. is a restricted free agent. Gore actually out-rushed each of those three 49ers in 2020, and coach Kyle Shanahan loves to rotate tailbacks in his system, but the writing is on the wall.
Gore is in the twilight of his career, and the 49ers' front office would be wise to look at younger options and find someone with more gas in the tank.
There are a bevy of 20-something running backs slated to be unrestricted free agents this offseason, including Aaron Jones, Kenyan Drake, Gus Edwards, James Conner, Wayne Gallman, Chris Carson, Todd Gurley and Mike Davis. And the braintrust in Santa Clara knows the 49ers can be an appealing destination, with a respected offensive-minded head coach who is just a year removed from leading his squad to the Super Bowl.
Hold on to your No. 21 49ers jersey for the retirement ceremony, but don’t expect Gore to be rocking the red and gold in 2021.