The four highest-paid running backs in the NFL for the 2018 season are set to be Le’Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman, LeSean McCoy, and … Jerick McKinnon? That’s where we’re at after the 49ers agreed to sign the running back to a four-year, $30 million contract Wednesday, according to ESPN.
This is likely to go down as one of the most puzzling contracts of free agency. McKinnon never topped 600 rushing yards in any of his first four NFL seasons with the Vikings. He set career highs last year with 570 rushing yards, 421 receiving yards, and five touchdowns, but those numbers hardly warrant being sandwiched between McCoy and Leonard Fornette on the running back salary rankings.
The move is part of an aggressive offseason under general manager John Lynch that really started with the acquisition and signing of Jimmy Garoppolo, who’s shown flashes of being the franchise quarterback every team desires. The 49ers are understandably trying to surround him with more talent.
However, the price tag here is certainly going to raise eyebrows. Only two running backs in the league, Freeman and McCoy, have larger overall contracts. Bell has the league’s highest salary at $14.544 million, but that’s the result of the Steelers using the franchise tag on him for the second straight season.
The 49ers are paying McKinnon to be a leading man, something he never really was in Minnesota. We’ll have to see what Kyle Shanahan can do with him.