The 49ers made a “serious push” for running back Le’Veon Bell before he signed with the Jets, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (Twitter link). However, Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area says he doesn’t believe San Francisco had real interest in Bell.
Bell’s market may not have been as strong as he once hoped, so it’s possible reports of 49ers interest were being used as leverage. Other clubs, such as the Ravens and Colts, were expected or reported to be suitors for Bell, but those clubs never actually discussed a deal. Ultimately, Bell landed $52.5MM and $35MM over a four-year term from New York.
San Francisco would have been a curious fit for Bell, at least on paper. The 49ers signed Jerick McKinnon to a four-year, $30MM deal just last offesason, a pact that still makes McKinnon the NFL’s seventh-highest paid back. He tore his ACL last summer and missed his debut campaign with San Francisco, but it would cost the Niners cap space to cut McKinnon now. SF could have conceivably used a post-June 1 designation on McKinnon (and thus lessened the 2019 cap hit for releasing him), but the team hasn’t indicated it’s ready to move on from its 2018 free agent addition.
With McKinnon out, Matt Breida took over as the 49ers’ running back and thrived, posting 5.3 yards per attempt 153 carries. He’ll be back next year, as will restricted free agent Raheem Mostert, leaving even less room for a potential Bell acquisition.
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