It wasn't too long ago that most felt Jerick McKinnon would become a San Francisco 49ers roster casualty this offseason. The running back has missed the past two seasons due to injury and hasn't taken a regular-season snap since signing a four-year deal in 2018.

The 49ers reworked McKinnon's contract this offseason, freeing up salary-cap space and essentially turning it into a one-year deal. That will allow San Francisco coaches and executives to give the running back one more chance to prove he can be the weapon they envisioned when they brought him in.

"Jerick McKinnon gives the 49ers something they previously lacked: A legitimate route-runner and third-down option out of the backfield," wrote 49ers insider Matt Maiocco in a recent mailbag article for NBC Sports Bay Area. "If he's healthy, McKinnon will have a spot on the team."

Where does that leave the remaining running backs? The team won't carry five into the regular season. Raheem Mostert was the team's leading rusher and most consistent back during his breakout 2019 campaign. Much of Tevin Coleman's contract became fully guaranteed on April 1. If he weren't part of the plan for 2020, the 49ers probably would have released him before this past week, which would have produced no dead money.

San Francisco entered 2019 with three running backs on the 53-man roster. Adding McKinnon to the mix gives you a three-player group.

That leaves Matt Breida and Jeff Wilson Jr. One of those running backs, however, has more experience and trade value.

"Matt Breida did not have a role on offense to end the season," Maiocco continued. "The club placed a second-round tender on him as a restricted free agent, but I'm sure the 49ers would be willing to trade his rights for (a) lower-round draft pick. Right now, Breida is most-likely to find himself on another team to open the season."

Maiocco's view isn't unique. Matt Barrows of The Athletic, another well-informed best writer, can easily see a scenario where Breida starts the 2020 season on another roster.

San Francisco recently placed a second-round tender on Breida, giving the team the first right to match any competing offer. Should the 49ers opt not to do so, the interested team would need to surrender a second-round pick to sign the running back.

"I thought it would be the original-round tender, just given their depth at running back," Barrows recently said. "But the second-round tender was sort of a signal that they knew that there were other teams that would be sniffing around Breida. Ostensibly, they know the teams that are interested in him."

Added Barrows: "I don't know what they would get for him. It might not be a second-rounder, and you can assume it wouldn't be because that team would just sign him away and then give the 49ers a second-rounder, if that were the case. But I think the 49ers would take less than that for him — a third- or fourth-rounder, perhaps."

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