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Why Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers didn’t expect a fight to sign Jerick McKinnon

Apr 2, 2018 at 12:50 PM--


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San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan joined The Adam Schefter Podcast on Monday and discussed the team's new starting running back, Jerick McKinnon. He was viewed by many as a third-down running back thrust into more playing time after starting Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook suffered a torn ACL during Week 4 of last season. After that, McKinnon and Latavius Murray made up one of the best running back tandems in the NFL and helped the Vikings become the seventh-best rushing offense in the league.

McKinnon averaged 3.9 yards per run while gaining 544 yards on 140 carries during Week 5 and beyond. He added 43 receptions for 381 receiving yards to his 2017 statistics. McKinnon has averaged 4.0 yards per carry through four NFL seasons.

How does Shanahan envision utilizing such a versatile running back within his offense?

"He's coming in, he's our starting running back," the head coach told Schefter. "I don't care what running back you are though, you're never going to do that on your own, so he's going to need help from other people in that group. But I expect him to help us in the run game a ton, and I expect him to do it in the pass game -- what he's always done, if not more.

RELATED Post Free Agency Roster Analysis: Offense

"He's been a great third-down back in the league, and we plan on using him that way, but we also expect to bring him in and him run the ball well for us too."

The 49ers paid plenty to keep McKinnon from signing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or New York Jets, both of which Schefter says were interested. On the first day of free agency, he signed a four-year deal with the 49ers worth up to $30 million, which makes him the fourth-highest paid running back in the league when looking at average yearly salary. Only Le'Veon Bell (Steelers), Devonta Freeman (Falcons), and LeSean McCoy (Bills) average more than McKinnon.

Schefter asked Shanahan what he saw in McKinnon that made the 49ers believe he is worth such a hefty price.

"It's a lot more simple than people think," Shanahan responded. "You look at all the free agent running backs that are available, and you evaluate them. We liked Jerick more than anyone. He was our top guy, and it surprised me too because anytime someone doesn't have a ton of stats and everything, I'm always thinking maybe I'm the only one that's going to see him that way. [We felt], 'Alright, we'll get this guy (at the) middle of the pack compared to all the other free agents, but we'll be excited because we think he's the best one.'

"And then you go through negotiations like that, and it wasn't a secret. Other teams saw it on tape too, but he was our target. That's the guy we wanted and (that is) the market. I think that means we were right. Other teams saw him the same way, and the market was what it is, and we did what we needed to get a good player."

You can listen to the entire ESPN interview with Shanahan here.



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