San Francisco’s Frank Gore is one of this offseason’s many running back holdout stories. He has returned to 49ers camp, and contract negotiations have started but don’t seem to be going the way Gore would like. At 28 years old, Gore is looking to secure his future with a contract akin to the five-year, $43 million ($21 million guaranteed) contract that DeAngelo Williams got from the Panthers.
Unlike Williams, Gore has led his team in rushing yards each year since his rookie season. Despite injuries, Gore has had plus-1,000-yard seasons in four out of the six years he’s been with the team. Like Tennessee’s holdout, Chris Johnson, Gore is vital to his team’s success.
GM Trent Baalke has voiced his desire to keep Gore with the team for the long term, and Gore has mirrored that ideal.
Without some sort of extension, though, Gore may ask to be traded.
Here are nine teams that would clamor for Gore’s services if the opportunity presented itself.
Cleveland, which hasn’t seen the playoffs since 2002 and has just one winning season since then (10-6 in 2007), is in the progress of rebuilding. The Browns have a young new quarterback and a bucket full of dreams.
They also have Peyton Hillis, a fourth-year player out of Arkansas who ran for 1,177 of Cleveland’s 1,646 total rushing yards last season. That young new quarterback, Colt McCoy, had the second-most rushing yards for the team with 136 in his eight games played.
Hillis can’t do it alone. Team president Mike Holmgren knows that and knows how Frank Gore treated his Seahawks when he was in Seattle. He’s also not averse to signing 28-year-old Pro Bowl running backs to long-term contracts. Remember Shaun Alexander?
Miami is struggling to repair and improve nearly every aspect of its team so it stands a chance at competing with the likes of the Patriots and the Jets for the division crown. The backfield is not immune.
First the Dolphins drafted Daniel Thomas and let their former running back duo walk in favor of him as a starter. They traded for Reggie Bush (who has since supplanted Thomas on the depth chart) and have just signed Larry Johnson to a risk-less one-year deal.
Johnson will turn 32 halfway through the season and is far removed from his Pro Bowl days with Kansas City.
Gore is four years younger and has not experienced a significant drop in performance despite his many injuries over the years. He would certainly be a better option than Johnson to flesh out the depth chart, keep Bush competitive and give Thomas time to develop and learn the playbook.
Fred Jackson didn’t have an awful season last year and is only one year removed from a 1,000-yard season. Second-year player C.J. Spiller, who spent last season serving primarily as a returner, should have more carries and contribute more.
However, the Bills are 12 years removed from playoff contention and need to do everything they can now to be relevant in the highly competitive AFC East.
Arizona finished 2010 ranked dead last in rushing. Then, once the 2011 season opened for business, it traded away its leading rusher in favor of a third-year return man and Beanie Wells, who rushed for only 397 yards over 13 games in 2010.
The Cardinals could jump at the idea of trading for Gore, not only to fortify their up-and-coming run game, but also to weaken a division rival.
The Washington Redskins ranked 30th in total yards and yards per game last season. To fix the problem, they called on help from the league's worst rushing team, acquiring Tim Hightower from the Cardinals.
Fourth-round pick Roy Helu is expected to make an impact as well, but the Redskins would benefit from the expertise of a Pro Bowler like Gore.
The Broncos’ leading rusher, Knowshon Moreno, didn’t manage to crack even 800 yards in 2010, and their No. 2 pickup, Willis McGahee, has not topped 700 yards since 2007.
Neither contributed efficiently to Denver’s preseason win over Seattle, with McGahee averaging just 2.5 yards per carry despite his touchdown.
Adding Gore could upgrade Denver’s backfield and take the pressure off the Broncos’ well-publicized quarterback controversy.
The Cowboys have a young running back duo in fourth-year player Felix Jones and rookie DeMarco Murray. Dallas is in need of a seasoned back who can find holes despite a weak offensive line—something Gore has repeatedly done with the 49ers.
If the preseason (not to mention last season’s injuries) has revealed anything about the Colts, it’s how much the Colts rely on their starters.
Indy’s No. 2 RB averaged just 3.9 yards per carry last season filling in for injured Joseph Addai. Truth be told, Addai doesn’t average much better than that, but the Colts' game is notoriously pass-heavy, so it traditionally doesn’t matter much.
However, with Peyton Manning possibly down and no real viable QB alternative, a little juice for their running game could be just what the doctor ordered.
In true Detroit form, the draftee (Mikel Leshoure) the Lions were hoping would save their run game went down early in training camp, and the Lions were left scrambling for help just before their preseason opener.
The help they found came in the form of Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell, who have both failed to impress so far.
A chance to upgrade their offense in a way that could do justice to the defense that pummeled Tom Brady Sunday night, while giving Leshoure a quality veteran to learn from over the next few years, would be welcomed by the Lions.