Running back Jerick McKinnon restructured his contract early in the offseason so that he could remain with the 49ers. He really didn’t have much of a choice since the 49ers were going to cut him anyways.
McKinnon has not registered a single regular season snap for the red and gold. The guy has just been stacking checks since he inked his monstrous $30 million contract back in March 2018. It’s been one stroke of bad luck after another for him when it comes to his ACL injury.
However, 2020 just may be his breakthrough season for health.
McKinnon has been training without any restraints or setbacks this offseason, something that couldn’t be said this time last year. McKinnon will be entering training camp ready to compete for a spot. He needs to show what he can do to carve himself out a role.
Or does he?
Does a player who the 49ers have already invested so much money in need to compete for a role in the offense?
Not at all.
McKinnon’s current base salary is just about $1 million this season. Generally when a player is making such a minimal salary like that, they will not see much of a role if any outside of special teams. But because the 49ers threw so much money at him without getting anything, this season is their time to make up for some of those losses.
That is why McKinnon will already have a role in the offense instead of having to compete for one.
He is going to get the kitchen sink thrown at him and see a solid share of playing time. The 49ers need to finally get production out of McKinnon, which can be a double edged sword. Involving him for a good percentage of snaps will really test him to find out if he’s healthy.
Yes, he has been showing strong health throughout the offseason, but it’ll all be a different story when the pads come on. McKinnon is most likely going to be the pass-catching back, but I wouldn’t rule him out to see some handoffs either.
Let’s not forget he is a talented player and his skill set could add a missing dynamic in the backfield that the 49ers only saw with Jeff Wilson Jr. But the fact of the matter is that none of this will matter if his health cannot sustain for the entirety of the season. And that is something that could be too much for him when they 49ers hand him his role.