San Francisco 49ers rolling the dice with big dollar deal for McKinnon

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 14: Jerick McKinnon /

The San Francisco 49ers added another piece to their offensive arsenal, but the question that should be asked is whether or not it’s the right piece.

San Francisco 49ers GM John Lynch and HC Kyle Shanahan are having themselves and offseason, and are most definitely shaking up the organization.

Whether it be dealing for Jimmy Garoppolo, or pouncing on a free agent like Richard Sherman, Lynch and Shanahan are putting the team in a position to succeed like it hasn’t since those heady days when Jim Harbaugh roamed the sidelines.

After closing the season on a five-game win streak to finish the 2017 campaign, Lynch and Shanahan are carrying that momentum into the offseason, looking to build on last year’s 6-10 record.

Thus far, the 49ers have been hitting all the right notes in their wheelings and dealings. They’ve shored up some areas of weakness, retained some key players, and addressed holes on the roster by signing free agents.

But, the Lynch/Shanahan brain trust hit their first “questionable” note this offseason by letting running back Carlos Hyde walk, and swapping him out for former Vikings back Jerick McKinnon – who wound up being the odd man out with the emergence of Dalvin Cook.

McKinnon has been viewed by many as one of the top running backs in the free agent class. Lynch and Shanahan apparently thought enough of him – and not enough of Hyde – to lavish a four-year, $30 million dollar deal on him.

That’s featured back money for a guy who’s yet to be a featured back in the NFL.

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To give a little bit of perspective on how large the deal the 49ers game McKinnon is, Hyde will be joining the Browns on a three-year, $15 million dollar deal – and Hyde has experience being the focal point in a team’s running game, something McKinnon lacks.

McKinnon’s $7.5 million dollar per year salary makes him the fourth-highest paid running back in the entire league, trailing just Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, and LeSean McCoy.

Suffice it to say, McKinnon is making big money for a guy who’s only ever been a complementary back over his four years in the league.

In four seasons with the Vikings, McKinnon has just 474 carries for 1,918 yards, and seven touchdowns. Over that span, he’s also added 142 receptions for another 984 yards, and five more scores.

Some will say it’s McKinnon’s versatility that makes him a better fit in Shanahan’s offense. Yet, when you really get down into the numbers, you see that Hyde is just as versatile as McKinnon. For his career to this point, Hyde has 655 rushes for 2,729 yards, and 21 scores. He’s also added 109 catches for 634 yards, and three more scores.

Just last season, Hyde finished the year with 938 rushing yards on 240 carries, and 59 receptions for 350 yards. McKinnon, on the other hand, had just 570 yards on 150 carries, and 421 yards on 51 receptions – meaning that Hyde had more rushing attempts and pass receptions last seasons.

Next: Looking At The Good In Sherman Signing

The big concern here should be that McKinnon doesn’t have the size to be a featured back. To take the sort of pounding bigger backs can. At five-foot-nine, 205 pounds, he’s small, sleek, and quick. His size wouldn’t lead you to believe he’s a between-the-tackles, three-down back – even though, Lynch and Shanahan have suggested that he may be just that.

Throwing $7.5 million a year, making him the fourth-highest paid running back in the league, at a guy with a whopping total of 14 combined starts over his four years in the league is a big time crapshoot.

There’s simply no way of telling at this point, how McKinnon will deal with the constant pounding he’s going to get as the presumed centerpiece San Francisco’s ground game – of course, you’re not going to shell out $7.5 million a year for a guy to not be the running game’s centerpiece.

It could work out brilliantly – or it could flame out spectacularly. We just won’t know for a little while yet.

Thus far, the 49ers have been enjoying a rock solid offseason, shaping and crafting a team that looks primed to build on the success they had late in the season last year. Letting Hyde walk and signing McKinnon – at the amount they signed him for – though, is the first note that’s been a bit off-key.

Let’s just hope that note somehow blends with the rest of the symphony and creates some sweet music in 2018.