Why the 49ers Should Cut Ties with Jerick McKinnon
Jose Luis Sanchez III
With the offseason now in full force for the San Francisco 49ers, they will have to answer a bunch of questions surrounding the team. One of those questions is what they should do regarding running back Jerick McKinnon.
For the second straight season, McKinnon’s season ended before it started due to a torn ACL. His knee just hadn’t fully recovered for him to even be considered being put out on the field, thus the 49ers placed him on injured reserve prior to week one. As of now, McKinnon appears to be on track to be healthy for the 2020 season.
However, the question remains on whether the 49ers should even retain him. McKinnon has already cashed out on guarantees worth $18 million. And by April 1, $2.6 million of his $6.5 million base salary in 2020 will become fully guaranteed. The 49ers can save that and the rest of what he is owed on his $30 million deal.
Considering how questionable his health is, the 49ers should cut their ties with McKinnon.
He is simply not worth the time to see if he can be physically stable again. Giving him the reps in training camp would be put to better use to other running backs that they would end up bringing in. Not to mention that by cutting him and saving some dollars, the 49ers can put that money into better use. It could factor into whether or not they extend players like Arik Armstead, Jimmie Ward or Emmanuel Sanders.
San Francisco is set at the running back position and should not feel inclined to keep McKinnon. Even if they let Matt Breida walk, who is a restricted free agent, then the 49ers will still be adequate at running back. Let’s not forget about Jeff Wilson Jr., also a restricted free agent, and how promising he looked in 2019. He can do everything McKinnon can prior to his injury, only except Wilson does not carry the longevity concerns.
San Francisco very well could bring back Wilson as a viable No. 3 on the depth chart. If not, then the 49ers can dip into the free agency pool or look for a running back late in the draft to fill the depth.
Is there a chance McKinnon could actually be fit for duty? Sure.
But it just doesn’t behoove the 49ers to believe that. The cap savings from cutting ties with him benefit the 49ers far more than if they keep him. McKinnon likely realizes that as he told Nick Wagoner of ESPN that he’s open to working with the 49ers to stay.
"I’m willing to do whatever.” Said McKinnon. “The organization knows I want to be a part of this team, so when that time comes there will be a talk between both parties."
Restructuring his contract into a “prove it” does make his retention feasible. If he is only going to account for nickels and dimes towards the cap, then perhaps he does have a future with the 49ers.
However, at this point there’s really no justification to keeping him. McKinnon is damaged goods at a position that is the most interchangeable in football, especially in Kyle Shanahan’s system. The best course of action for the San Francisco 49ers going forward is to cut ties with Jerick McKinnon. Investing time on another player and cap savings is the more valued move for this franchise.