Raheem Mostert asked for a raise, and the 49ers said no. Or said nothing. Or put his raise on hold. Either way, they haven’t given Mostert more money. This we know.
So what’s next?
Let’s look at things from Mostert’s perspective. I haven’t spoken to him about this, but it’s easy to see where he’s coming from.
Mostert turned 28 in April. He’s not young, and running backs have short shelf lives because they take so much punishment every time they touch the ball. His career could end at any moment. He needs this raise.
In five seasons in the NFL, six teams have cut Mostert. He has earned $4.4 million -- not much for a five-year vet. And after federal taxes and California taxes and agent fees, Mostert probably has kept half of that amount. He signed his first multi-year contract extension in 2019, because he played so well on special teams and the 49ers rewarded him for that. He will earn $2.9 million per season until 2022.
But now he’s the 49ers lead running back, and an excellent one. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry last season -- more than any other NFL running back. And he scored 15 touchdowns, counting playoff games. If I were Mostert, I’d feel I’ve graduated past a mere special-teamer’s contract.
Mostert has zero guaranteed money remaining in his deal. Meaning if he suffers a career-ending injury during training camp -- quite common for running backs -- the 49ers could cut him and pay him nothing. And then Mostert would have to become a real estate agent or car salesman. He’s not set for life.
Why would the 49ers make Mostert worry about that scenario? Why not give him security, make him feel wanted? He has earned it.
Mostert played so hard for the 49ers last season. Put his body on the line even though he had no long-term financial protection. And they would not have made the Super Bowl without him. He carried them at times, and was their best player in the NFC Championship game, when he ran for 220 yards and four touchdowns.
And since 2015, Mostert has worked his way up from practice-squad player to special-teams standout to potential top-five running back in the NFL. He’s the kind of player teams should want to take care of.
And taking care of Mostert wouldn’t cost the 49ers much. Running backs are cheap, and I doubt Mostert wants to be the highest-paid running back in the NFL. But he deserves to be the highest-paid running back on his own team. Tevin Coleman currently makes $4.25 million per season, or $1.35 million more than Mostert. Not right. Not fair. Not just. Coleman is relentlessly mediocre. He averaged just 4 yards per carry last season.
Mostert also deserves to be one of the 20-highest-paid players on the 49ers in terms of average salary. He currently ranks 21st behind players such as Solomon Thomas and Robbie Gould. Not right. Not fair. Not just.
The 49ers should pay Mostert at least $5 million per season, or roughly what they pay fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Both are integral to the offense’s success. And if the 49ers need to create cap space to pay Mostert, they always can cut Coleman and free up $2.55 million. Coleman is replaceable.
If I were Mostert, I would want the 49ers to make this right.
If they don’t make it right, Mostert could request a trade. Or he could hold out. Or he could opt out of the 2020 season entirely, and say his current contract doesn’t provide enough incentive for him to play during a global pandemic and risk spreading Covid to his wife and children.
Losing Mostert would seriously damage the 49ers’ chances of winning the Super Bowl next season. He’s one of their most important players. They need him.
If I were Mostert, I would hold out. You bet I would.