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Why Le'Veon Bell unlikely to be right fit for 49ers in NFL free agency

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Why Le'Veon Bell unlikely to be right fit for 49ers in NFL free agency

The 49ers spent big money on a running back in free agency last year. But the contract Jerick McKinnon signed doesn't even compare to the kind of deal that would satisfy scheduled free agent Le’Veon Bell.

McKinnon signed a four-year, $29.75 million deal with the 49ers in 2018. Bell, meanwhile, refused to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers last season for $14.5 million on the team's franchise tag.

Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Wednesday that the organization would not place the franchise tag on Bell again this year. So, Bell is scheduled to be available to any team as an unrestricted free agent in mid-March.

Don't expect the 49ers to get seriously involved, though, said former NFL quarterback Chris Simms, an NBC Sports analyst and close friend of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan.

“That’s a position where Kyle, the Shanahans in general, look at and go, ‘I can get more out of that position than the normal guy; I don’t need to waste money to get a special player there to get special results,’ ” Simms said on The 49ers Insider Podcast.

“Their offense, their design, can get special results as long as the player doesn’t have any huge, glaring weaknesses. Yeah, I’d be shocked if Le’Veon Bell ended up on the 49ers.”

McKinnon missed all of last season after sustaining a torn ACL one week before the start of the regular season. McKinnon is on pace to be cleared for the start of training camp -- if not sooner -- according to general manager John Lynch.

[RELATED: If 49ers add running back, who falls off the depth chart?]

In McKinnon's absence, the 49ers turned to Matt Breida, Alfred Morris, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson. Breida led the way with 814 yards with a 5.3-yard average. Breida, Morris, Mostert and Wilson combined for 1,769 yards with a 4.9 average.

Bell, 27, gained 1,291 yards (4.0 average) and nine touchdowns while catching 85 passes for 655 yards and two touchdowns in 2017. McKinnon, 26, gained 570 yards (3.8 average) and three touchdowns with 51 catches for 421 yards and three TDs in 2017 as a part-time player with the Minnesota Vikings.

Aaron Rodgers shades Drew Brees, says NFL protests 'NEVER' about flag

Aaron Rodgers shades Drew Brees, says NFL protests 'NEVER' about flag

Hours after New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees said he considered players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality against African Americans "disrespecting the flag," a superstar peer not-so-subtly pushed back.

Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers shared a picture of him and his teammates locking arms before a 2017 game, writing in an Instagram post on Wednesday that such demonstrations have "NEVER been about an anthem or a flag."

"Not then. Not now," Rodgers wrote. "Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action."

Yahoo Finance asked Brees earlier Wednesday if he would support players kneeling in protest during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" this season, as demonstrators around the world protest police brutality in the aftermath of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who was unarmed, dying in Minneapolis police custody last Monday. Brees, echoing comments he made four years ago when former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first sat then kneeled during the national anthem before games, said he "never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America, or our country."

Rodgers did not directly mention Brees, but the Saints signal-caller faced widespread rebuke Wednesday.

Star 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman called Brees "beyond lost." Michael Thomas, the Saints' best receiver and Brees' top target, didn't mention Brees by name on Twitter, but it was clear who he was referring to in a pair of tweets.

Malcolm Jenkins, who previously raised a fist during the national anthem, co-founded the Players Coalition in 2017 and signed with the Saints this offseason, said Brees is "part of the problem" with his "hurtful" and "insensitive" comments.

Just eight of the NFL's 32 starting quarterbacks are African American. After Carson Wentz, Ryan Tannehill and 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow spoke up following Floyd's death, Sherman said it was important for white QBs to speak out against police brutality and institutional racism because their voices "carry different weight than the black voices for some people." Just before Brees spoke, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr said he would stop "sticking to sports."

[RELATED: Poole writes Brees revealed he's part of problem, not solution]

A day before his comments about the flag, Brees posted a black square on his Instagram page as part of #BlackoutTuesday. The social-media campaign was initially intended for members of the music industry to "disconnect from work and reconnect with our community" but later spread to celebrities, influencers and everyday users intending to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Scores of users initially posted with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, obscuring posts that #BlackoutTuesday participants hoped to elevate.

Brees used the proper hashtag Tuesday, but his understanding of his protesting peers' goals is now in question.

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

49ers' Richard Sherman speaks from experience in revealing police problem

49ers' Richard Sherman speaks from experience in revealing police problem

George Floyd's tragic death in Minneapolis police custody has rocked the nation, and while the human spectrum present at the countless protests across the country and world at large does point to some progress in racial equality, the catalyst that sparked them is a reminder that there still is so far to go.

That's why Colin Kaepernick kneeled. And the fact that people still don't understand why he did and still don't understand the message behind "Black Lives Matter" are reasons why more progress hasn't been made.

"I think that's the frustrating part," 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman said Wednesday on "NFL Total Access." "The people that the message is trying to get through to are unwilling to accept the message. And when you're combative and defensive about something you don't even fully understand, there can't be progress. So, whenever somebody says, 'Hey, this black man got killed on national TV in front of the world,' there should be a sense of anger from everybody, regardless of race, because it was just wrong."

Sherman's remarks came as part of a discussion in which he and former NFL defensive end Chris Long offered their thoughts on how players can use their platforms to fight racism in their communities. He spoke from his own personal experience in explaining the enormity of the issue at hand, and pointed to the disparity in how Floyd was treated by the police as compared to white mass murderers, such as Dylann Roof.

"As somebody who was born in Watts, California and raised in Compton and seen some terrible things, you understand that it's not always on camera," Sherman said. "It's not always on camera; It's just these few incidents you guys have caught on camera. There are hundreds of thousands of incidents you don't catch on camera, thousands of innocent men sitting in jail cells because it's word of mouth that has put them there. 'Hey, this person said they did this. There's not a lot of evidence, but hey, they're black. We assume they did it.' And so that's where people are getting frustrated and this has become the tipping point ... 

" ... for three officers to be on top of [Floyd], one officer on the side watching, and there's also video evidence of them kind of roughing him up in the car, like, that's not okay. And it wouldn't have been okay for them to do it to mass murderers who were white who came in and shot up innocent people. It wouldn't have been okay for them to stop them and not let them see their day in court. But the way those situations were approached is what a lot of people see problems with. Because [Floyd] wasn't a threat. 

"So if the man isn't a threat and he can't see his day in court, and two men who were actually full threats -- killed, murdered, they were real threats. They were threatening, they had guns -- and you didn't feel the fear or angst or anxiety to, 'Hey, pull a trigger. Let me shoot this guy before he shoots me,' that you do when a guy is unarmed, then that's part of the problem."

[RELATED: Sherman says Brees is 'beyond lost' with kneeling comments]

The problem Sherman describes is a complex one with many parts. But if we all do our part individually -- listening, learning, striving for change -- it can only benefit the whole.

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