Ranking the 5 Best Spots for Frank Gore to Sign for a Super Bowl Run

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2021

Ranking the 5 Best Spots for Frank Gore to Sign for a Super Bowl Run

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    Modern NFL legend Frank Gore might not be ready to retire. 

    ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Gore would return for a 17th season "in the right circumstance." Filtering that through NFL-speak makes it simpler: The 37-year-old impending free agent would probably like to play for a contender. 

    Gore spent this season with the two-win New York Jets, slogging through an 0-13 start and finishing with 653 yards and two touchdowns on a 3.5 per-carry average. His 241 career games are the most for a running back in league history, and he has an even 16,000 career yards, just the third back to reach that milestone. 

    While Gore hasn't averaged better than four yards per carry since 2018, his bursts of productivity are secondary to his massive impact in the positional room and locker room. Contenders sure to have an interest in him could afford a luxurious pickup and potential spot starter like Gore while giving him a chance at an elusive Lombardi Trophy. The five best spots are ranked by a combination of team fit and likelihood of winning a title.  

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will remain contenders as long as Tom Brady keeps playing, and the future Hall of Famer is under contract for one more season. 

    Tampa Bay does have an underrated lead back in Ronald Jones II, who in 14 games this season put up 978 yards and seven touchdowns on a 5.1 per-carry average with 28 receptions. 

    But behind Jones, 2017 first-rounder Leonard Fournette is merely a warm body who averaged just 3.8 yards per carry over 97 attempts and was a healthy scratch when both Jones and LeSean McCoy (10 carries over as many appearances) were good to go. 

    The idea of Gore playing with another legend like Brady has plenty of appeal. Fournette and McCoy are on one-year deals, and there's a chance Gore could slide right in and be more productive than both behind Jones, never mind the impact he'll have on the culture for an all-in Tampa Bay squad.

4. Seattle Seahawks

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks aren't going away as heavyweight contenders with Russell Wilson at the controls, which makes them plenty attractive to a Lombardi-chasing guy such as Gore. 

    But it sure helps that the team could use backfield assistance. 

    Seattle backed into seventh-round star Chris Carson in 2017, which has made up for Rashaad Penny's struggles. The 2018 first-rounder played in just three games this year because of knee trouble and has just 161 career attempts. Carson has quietly been a workhorse in 12 games this season, posting 681 yards and five touchdowns on a 4.8 average to go with 37 catches and four scores through the air. 

    As in Tampa Bay, Gore could slip in as a backup sledgehammer type or a spot starter and do well. Penny is in limbo, and Carlos Hyde is set to be a free agent, so the stars might align. 

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the potential 2021 contenders who could lose a starting running back to the open market. 

    "Potential" because the team's contender status hinges on whether 38-year-old quarterback Ben Roethlisberger comes back for another year. But running back James Conner, owner of 721 rushing yards and six touchdowns on a 4.3 average over 13 games, will hit the open market in March. 

    Regardless of what happens with Conner, Gore projects to be a strong rotational piece who can likely be more effective than incumbents Benny Snell Jr. and Anthony McFarland Jr., never mind the mentorship factor he'll carry if the Steelers bring in a rookie to help replace Conner. 

    Gore's style, on and off the field, seems to fit the Steelers' brand, and there could be an opening for 100-plus touches for a veteran who can wear down the opposition all season. 

2. San Francisco 49ers

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    A reunion with the San Francisco 49ers would be one of the better 2021 storylines, right? 

    Gore was a third-round pick of San Francisco's in 2005 and played there through 2014, racking up 11,073 rushing yards and 64 scores over 10 seasons. 

    On the flip side, the 49ers struggled on the ground this year. Jeff Wilson Jr. was the team's leading rusher, posting 600 yards and scoring seven times. Big investment Jerick McKinnon (four years, $30 million in 2018 before later restructuring) appeared in 16 games but got just 81 carries. Would-be workhorse Raheem Mostert appeared in just eight games.

    There's plenty of room for a proven veteran to come in and absorb some of the punishment for an offense that needs to be better across the board next season. Whether Mostert leads the way or not, Gore could provide a boon as a backup. 

    The 49ers weren't contenders this year while regressing to 6-10, but Nick Bosa's (torn ACL) and Solomon Thomas' (knee) early injuries played a major role in that. A healthy, upgraded roster figures to get back in the title mix, and a Gore reunion could help that along.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Let's allow Gore to enjoy the top of the rich-get-richer scenarios. 

    The Kansas City Chiefs had no problems welcoming Le'Veon Bell with open arms this year after the Jets cut him loose in mid-October, giving Gore control of the backfield in New York. 

    Bell only ended up taking 63 carries and scoring twice but arrived with the understanding the backfield belonged to first-round rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire. That won't change next year, considering the breakout star rushed for 803 yards and four touchdowns on a 4.4 per-carry average over 13 games, catching 36 passes in the process. 

    There's room for a player of Gore's stature regardless, and it's safe to say his numbers would look quite a bit better than his 2020 stats given the running lanes he'd enjoy in the league's most prolific offense. 

    Given his backup status and the Chiefs' high-powered attack, Kansas City provides the best landing spot for the 37-year-old—and his best chance at a Super Bowl run.