Matt Breida

49ers Mailbag: Could Frank Gore or Delanie Walker return to franchise?

49ers Mailbag: Could Frank Gore or Delanie Walker return to franchise?

There are not many spots on the 49ers' 90-man roster being held for veteran additions before the NFL draft.

The 49ers have signed offensive lineman Tom Compton, slot receiver Travis Benjamin, defensive end Kerry Hyder and linebacker Joe Walker. If the 49ers add another player or two from outside the organization, think along the lines of the players they’ve already brought in. Do not expect any big names to sign with the club.

But what about the possibility of a couple of former 49ers coming back to the squad?

That’s how we open this edition of 49ers Mailbag:

Mark it down. Chisel it in granite. Frank Gore will sign his final NFL contract with the 49ers.

However, that does not mean Gore will ever again play for the 49ers. His NFL career remains in limbo, as he remains a free agent during this very uncertain offseason. There simply is no room for him on the 49ers’ depth chart.

Gore’s final contract will be a ceremonial deal that enables him to retire as a member of the 49ers. He remains close to the organization and CEO Jed York. There is no question Gore thinks of himself as a member of the 49ers. And the organization thinks of Gore as a forever 49er.

Tight end Delanie Walker also is a free agent after the Tennessee Titans released him with a failed physical due to a bothersome ankle. The 49ers will try to add a tight end, for sure. But at this stage, they will probably address that position on Day 3 of the draft.

Then, if the 49ers do that, is there any need for Walker? My guess is that no team would want to sign Walker until they are able to get their own team doctors to check him out. And it could be a long time before that is allowed to happen.

I don’t see any issue with George Kittle’s contract right now. The first deadline is when COVID-19 restrictions loosen and teams are allowed to get together on the field. That is going to signal a major event, as it relates to Kittle and his contract.

Would Kittle -- with advisement from his representation -- take the risk of getting on the field without a new contract?

The issue with any contract is money. What is fair compensation?

Kittle will become the highest-paid tight end in the NFL with his next contract. But by how much? How close does he get to the deals of some of the top wide receivers? After all, 10 wide receivers average from $16.2 million to $22 million on their current contracts. Kittle provides the 49ers with a 1,000-yard receiver as well as a dominant in-line blocker.

How much is that worth? That’s not necessarily an easy negotiation for an agent and the team to resolve.

Listen and subscribe to the 49ers Insider Podcast

I’ll take the over.

Obviously, they have to find the right teams with which to deal, but I think the 49ers will use a combination of trading back and trading up.

In my opinion, the best scenarios for them would involve trading back on Day 1 (first round), then maybe a combination of trading back on Day 2 (second round), then trading up, say, in the third round by using some of their picks from Day 3, using some of their picks in the fifth, sixth and seven rounds.

The 30 visits rule has always been used to regulate out-of-the-area prospects visiting team facilities and undergoing medical evaluations and meeting with coaches to talk scheme and football knowledge.

There is no limit to the number of prospects with whom teams can communicate over the phone or video conference. But this year there are some restrictions:

--Teams are not allowed to conduct more than three phone or video conferences with the same player over a one-week period.

--The conversations are not allowed to last for longer than one hour.

The most realistic projection for the starting lineup at wide receiver for Week 1: Deebo Samuel and Kendrick Bourne.

That might even be the most realistic projection even if the 49ers select a wide receiver at No. 13 overall. After all, it seems unlikely that the rookies will have the benefit of an offseason program to begin the process of getting acclimated to the NFL game.

The Cleveland Browns announced the hiring of Joe Woods as defensive coordinator. The 49ers hired Tony Oden to take over as defensive backs coach a while back. That has been confirmed, but it has not been announced.

The same goes with the hiring of defensive line assistant Aaron Whitecotton after Chris Kiffin followed Wood to the Browns.

As I understand it, the 49ers are waiting on the competition of some entry-level positions and, perhaps, some adjustments at other positions. Then, they’ll make all the announcements at once.

For instance, Taylor Embree was a 49ers quality control coach whom new Colorado coach Karl Dorrell recently hired to become tight ends coach. So the 49ers have to fill that position. And when all the additions are signed and official, that's when the 49ers will make the announcements.

My guess is that wide receiver is the most likely position the 49ers will address at No. 13. But I would not be floored to see the 49ers select an offensive tackle, cornerback or defensive lineman, either.

Unless the 49ers have a clump of receivers all evaluated with equal grades, it’s too simplistic to say that they will take a wide receiver with their first pick.

For instance – and I’m just making this up – but let’s say the 49ers have Jerry Jeudy as their top receiver with CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs with lower grades. But they could have tackle Mekhi Becton and cornerback C.J. Henderson rated ahead of Lamb. Then, they could have Javon Kinlaw and Jedrick Willis ahead of Ruggs.

That’s how teams put together their draft boards. They rarely lock themselves into taking the top-rated player at one position without considering players at other positions that might be better.

It does not seem realistic that a team will trade for Marquise Goodwin and pick up his $4.5 million scheduled pay when there are so many options available in the draft this year.

The most likely scenario is that the 49ers release Goodwin before the club rejoins for on-field work.

[RELATED: George Kittle's 49ers rise didn't shock fellow Iowa star Merton Hanks]

Jerick McKinnon gives the 49ers something they previously lacked: A legitimate route-runner and third-down option out of the backfield. If he’s healthy, McKinnon will have a spot on the team.

Tevin Coleman is a player whom Kyle Shanahan trusts. There have been no rumblings about his spot being tenuous due to a contract that is set to pay him $4.9 million for this season. But if the 49ers are in a salary-cap bind, that's a spot they could look.

Matt Breida did not have a role on offense to end the season. The club placed a second-round tender on him as a restricted free agent, but I’m sure the 49ers would be willing to trade his rights for lower-round draft pick. Right now, Breida is most-likely to find himself on another team to open the season.

The 49ers are willing to trade Nick Mullens. They’re willing to trade C.J. Beathard.

But the 49ers would want what they consider to be a fair price to part ways with either of those players behind Jimmy Garoppolo. (I assume you meant “highly unlikely” he’ll start over Jimmy.)

Last year, 49ers general manager John Lynch said there was a certain price that interested teams had to meet to obtain one of their reserve quarterbacks.

"We believe that's a great position to be in a position of strength, and we feel from our starter from Jimmy on down to the other two that it is a great position of strength,” Lynch said after the cuts to 53 players in September of 2019. “Not that we weren't open to it, but a certain price had to be met, and it wasn't. So we go in happily with these three."

49ers' Kendrick Bourne, Matt Breida to 'see what happens' after tender

49ers' Kendrick Bourne, Matt Breida to 'see what happens' after tender

On Tuesday, the 49ers placed second-round tenders on wide receiver Kendrick Bourne and running back Matt Breida.

The qualifying offers they were presented with would pay the two $3.259 million for the 2020 season.

With that, Bourne and Breida are allowed to negotiate with other teams as restricted free agents. And it appears Bourne is already looking forward to what that could mean:

So is Breida …

Breida, 25, was the team’s leading rusher in 2018 with 814 yards. Early last season, he was one of the main guys Jimmy Garoppolo depended on to gain yards, but struggled in the back half of the regular season and into the playoffs after he sustained an ankle injury.

[RELATED: Garland, 49ers agree on one-year deal]

Bourne joined the 49ers in 2017, and has totaled 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns in three seasons.

Time to grab the popcorn. 

49ers free agents: Matt Breida's drop on depth chart prompts difficult call

49ers free agents: Matt Breida's drop on depth chart prompts difficult call

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine the 49ers’ top 10 scheduled free agents. For each player, we will provide reasons why the 49ers should bring him back and reasons why they should not, followed by a final determination.

Matt Breida, RB

Running back Matt Breida was one of the true success stories for the 49ers over the past three seasons.

The 49ers invested a fourth-round draft pick in running back Joe Williams in 2017. But it was Breida whom the coaching staff immediately identified as having the right stuff after he signed as an undrafted rookie that same year.

Breida was the 49ers’ leading rusher in 2018 despite battling a lingering ankle issue most of the season. And after Tevin Coleman was injured in the first game last year, Breida picked up where he left off with games of 121 and 114 yards rushing over a three-game span.

But Breida fell out of the rotation after returning from missing three games with an ankle injury. He was not used much in the playoffs and played no offensive snaps in the Super Bowl. Now, Breida is a restricted free agent, and the 49ers must make a decision.

Reasons to bring him back

It is difficult to do much better than Breida did in his first three NFL seasons. In 43 games, he carried 381 times for 1,902 yards and six touchdowns. His 5.0 average is about as good as it gets.

He has also improved out of the backfield as a pass-catcher. He has 67 receptions for 561 yards and four touchdowns in three seasons.

Breida is a model teammate. He quietly goes about his business. He is not a starter with the 49ers’ stable of running backs, but he is a great option in a reserve role.

Reasons he does not return

Breida was an absolute bargain for the 49ers in his first three NFL seasons, making a total of approximately $1.7 million. He is a restricted free agent, and the 49ers must decide if – or at what level – to tender him.

The low tender is $2.144 million for one year. If another team signs him to an offer sheet and the 49ers decline to match, they would receive no compensation. The only way the 49ers would receive compensation is if they extend a qualifying offer of $3.278 million (second-round pick) or $4.667 million (first-round pick).

The 49ers already have Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Jeff Wilson under contract. They are pursuing the possibility of bringing back Jerick McKinnon on a low-level contract after he missed the past two seasons with knee issues.

The 49ers might decide to let Breida walk and earmark his spot on the depth chart for a younger, third-down running back who is a more polished route-runner.

[RELATED: Re-signing Emmanuel Sanders means one fewer unknown]

Final verdict

This one is painful, but $2.144 million for a running back who was No. 4 on the depth chart in Super Bowl LIV is simply too much to pay when the 49ers have higher priorities on their roster. The 49ers must make some tough decisions this offseason.

Therefore, it seems unlikely the 49ers will be willing to pay Breida the price it will take to retain him when the club can spend a fraction of that price to bring in an undrafted rookie to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster.

Also, if Breida does not get a lot of attention on the open market, the 49ers could keep the door open to re-signing him at a lower price.