To kick off NFL free agency, the San Francisco 49ers have started off with a bang by luring former Arizona Cardinals’ defensive tackle, Darnell Dockett, and recently adding wide receiver Jerome Simpson. With limited cap space, it so seemed the 49ers would remain hush in the free agent market. Among all 32 teams in the NFL, the 49ers have been the busiest and created the greatest buzz with their early signings.
On Sunday, the 49ers’ interest in the free agent market didn’t seem to end, as they have become the front runners to have a potential deal set in place soon for the former Baltimore Ravens receiver, Torrey Smith. With the 49ers jumping in early into the free agent pool, they appear to be in no need of waiting and anxious to bring in new faces.
While the 49ers have been the entertainment to a busy NFL offseason so far, the additions they’ve brought in may have been trumped by the hardest decision the franchise has made since the departure of Jerry Rice — letting Frank Gore walk.
Philadelphia Eagles’ head coach and the head of player personnel — Chip Kelly — reached out to Gore, and “Gore is expected to sign a three-year deal in which $7.5 million in the first two years is guaranteed,” according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Adam Caplan.
Gore had been the longest-tenured 49ers player, as he devoted 10 years of his service to the 49ers organization and the Bay Area.
The news of Gore mutually agreeing to a deal with the Eagles is a gut-wrench feeling and a heart-breaking experience for the 49ers’ faithful fan base.
With the safe contract Gore is receiving with the Eagles, it’d be interesting to see how much interest the 49ers truly had in bringing back the greatest running back in 49ers history or if Gore was getting more money elsewhere.
Needless to say, Gore exceeded expectations in San Francisco.
In the 2005 NFL Draft, the 49ers selected Gore out of the University of Miami, Florida in the third round. And Gore certainly never disappointed from day one.
While the attention was placed on running backs such as Cedric Benson, Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, and J.J. Arrington, Gore went on to be the best running back in his class. The running backs selected ahead of Gore are either now out of the league or struggling to stick around.
Coming into the league, ahead on the depth chart were former running backs Fred Beasley and Maurice Hicks. Quickly, Gore surpassed the two and was electrifying — permanently landing the starting spot.
For the next decade of ups and downs, Gore was a bruising back and never quit, as if he had a chip on his shoulder and something to prove. The thing is Gore never had to prove anything — he was a hard-worker and was born for the NFL.
Gore’s bruising style led him to 11,073 rushing yards and 64 rushing touchdowns in 10 mighty seasons, leading to the nickname, “The Inconvenient Truth”.
It is incredible to think that through all the inconsistency, multiple head coach changes, and interchanging of players, Gore never decided once to leave San Francisco and remained loyal — until the 49ers failed to come to terms or show any interest in bringing him back.
Gore’s career has been illustrious with the 49ers, but it is still not over.December 28, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore (21, left) runs the football against Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Kevin Minter (51, center) and free safety Rashad Johnson (26) during the fourth quarter at Levi
The attitude and mood of the 49ers’ faithful is already gloomy — with the decision and handling of Jim Harbaugh‘s departure — but maybe the franchise has developed a plan quietly for Gore’s replacement. And that plan may have started with the 49ers drafting Carlos Hyde in last year’s draft.
Why did the 49ers not pursue Gore harder than what Kelly and the Eagles did? That is a question for Jed York and Trent Baalke to address.
While indications in the media hinted the 49ers wanted and were going to do what it took to re-sign Gore, it never happened.
Gore is entering his 11th season in the league in 2015, and has surpassed the life expectancy of most running backs in today’s game. While it was rare to see running backs retire early — with Barry Sanders setting the tone — the life expectancy of the running game today is limited.
Running backs are now getting beat out, splitting carries, or cannot stay healthy.
Through Gore’s great work ethic and his desire to stretch his durability, Gore has surpassed the expectations of today’s running backs.
With Gore not returning, did the 49ers see something the Eagles did not?
Gore is turning 32 in May, which is significantly older than Hyde — who is nearly a decade younger. The 49ers are starting to age on the offensive side of the ball. The direction the 49ers want to go on the offense may be with a youth movement. Gore certainly does not fit that bill of youth anymore.
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The Eagles are offering three years of commitment to Gore, which will have him finishing around age 35.
It is easy to criticize the 49ers’ front office at the moment with their recent handling of letting Harbaugh walk in a reported “mutual” agreement, that was in no way mutual. But if Gore re-signed, it is uncertain how 2015 and the years ahead would be for him.
York and Baalke can’t be entirely blamed as they had their intentions for their decision, but recent doings cloud the fan base’s current judgement of the front office. Letting Gore go is just fueling the fire.
Gore has poured his heart and soul into the red and gold, and has placed himself in history as the greatest running back to play for the 49ers organization. There is certainly nothing more York, Baalke, Jim Tomsula, and the rest of the coaching staff could have asked from Gore.
What needs to be remembered is Gore did his time and gave it his all.
Ultimately, the 49ers seem to have pulled a move financially and performance-based to protect the future of the franchise. York, in his offseason press conferences, clearly has shown the 49ers are ready for the next step. By letting Gore go, it seems it was one of the sacrifices the franchise was willing to take.
Gore will simply be missed by a majority of 49ers fans, but the end of “The Inconvenient Truth” needed to happen sooner — rather than too late.