How Raheem Mostert's Trade Request could Play Out
What happens next?
Since the Super Bowl, Raheem Mostert and his agent have asked the 49ers for a modest raise. Not a big one, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
The 49ers rejected Mostert’s request. Basically gave him a slap in the face. Told him without using words that he’s replaceable, a mere product of Kyle Shanahan’s system. Nothing more.
And yet, no other running back has played as well as Mostert for Shanahan. In Mostert’s career, including the postseason, he has run the ball 231 times, gained 1,405 rushing yards, averaged 6.1 yards per carry and scored 16 touchdowns.
As opposed to Coleman, who averaged just 4 yards per carry last season.
Mostert easily could ask the 49ers for $8 million or $9 million per season. I consider him one of the five best, most explosive running backs in the NFL. And even though he’s 28, he has fresh legs. Plus he’s one of the best special-teams players in the league.
If Rapoport is correct and Mostert asked for only $5 million per season, and the 49ers still turned him down, shame on them.
Mostert has outperformed his current deal. It’s a special-teams contract -- he’s a “gunner” on the punt coverage team, meaning he runs down the sideline and tackles the punt returner. Or sometimes the punt returner makes a fair catch, so Mostert just runs. His job is not particularly dangerous, and he does it for just a handful of snaps per game.
But if he plays running back, too, as he did last season, he puts his career at risk on every play. Because when a running back carries the ball, all 11 defenders want to descend on him like a gang in a blind alley. Every play.
So what’s the incentive for Mostert to play running back without a raise? The 49ers have to give him an incentive, have to be fair about things. Shame on them if they aren’t.
In 2020, Mostert’s base salary will be roughly $2.5 million. And he has $250,000 of per-game roster bonuses built into his deal. So if he suffers a season-ending injury playing running back during the first week of the season, he won’t get 15 roster-bonus checks, or $234,375.
Under Mostert’s current deal, there’s zero incentive for him to play running back. He should play only special teams.
Some fans and media might argue that Mostert’s agent is the one at fault, because he should have put better incentives into the three-year extension Mostert signed with the 49ers just last year.
I’m assuming the agent did put in incentives. But it’s close to impossible for a running back to reach those incentives in Shanahan’s offense, because Shanahan uses a committee. Running backs split time. Mostert played so much better than Coleman last season, but never started. Plus, the 49ers gave Mostert seven or fewer carries in seven games.
And after Mostert rushed 29 times for 220 yards and four touchdowns in the NFC Championship game, two weeks later he had to wait until midway through the second quarter for his first carry of the Super Bowl. It’s like Mostert’s incentives were an illusion.
So here’s what I think will happen next:
Shanahan probably hopes running back Jerick McKinnon will return to full strength after missing the past two seasons with a torn ACL. If he’s healthy and effective, the 49ers probably will hold a hard line with Mostert, and he probably will sit out training camp and opt out of the season entirely, as many players might do because of the pandemic.
But if McKinnon does not play well in training camp, or reinjures himself, which has been his pattern, the 49ers probably will have to give Mostert the raise he wants. And they’ll probably give it to him right before the season starts, after they cut Coleman and/or third-string quarterback C.J. Beathard. The 49ers can use the savings from cutting them to pay Mostert an extra $2.5 million in 2020 with guarantees.
That’s all he seems to want.
Sounds reasonable to me.
To the 49ers?