49ers May Be Forced To Make This Tough Roster Move

John Lynch, San Francisco 49ers, NFL News
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

As usual, the San Francisco 49ers are considered one of the most talented, if not the most talented, teams in the NFL, and plenty feel this coming season is the one in which they will finally win their first Super Bowl championship since the 1994 campaign.

However, the one downside of having the amount of talent they have is that it is very hard to remain under the league’s hard salary cap. In addition, San Francisco needs to give a contract extension to star wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (or trade him), and quarterback Brock Purdy will be due for an extension of his own within the next year or so.

Paying both Aiyuk and Purdy may necessitate letting go of a few other key contributors.

According to Joe Tansey of Bleacher Report, running back Elijah Mitchell could be one of those expendables.

“Elijah Mitchell’s spot on the depth chart could be under threat by fourth-round pick Isaac Guerendo,” wrote Tansey.

“Mitchell had a breakout season in 2021 where he almost hit the 1,000-yard mark, but he has not hit the 300-yard mark in either of the last two seasons.

“Christian McCaffrey’s arrival has a lot to do with the drop in production, and if Mitchell believes he can be a No. 1 running back in the NFL, it simply is not happening in San Francisco.

“Mitchell’s two sub-300-yard seasons might not intrigue some teams, but he has previous responsibility as the top guy and averaged over 4.5 yards per carry in two of his three NFL seasons.”

Mitchell has been a very solid RB2 lately for the 49ers, and running back depth is very essential for a football team, especially one with a starter such as McCaffrey who has had injury problems in the past.

Elijah Mitchell once showed promise, but has faded

Speaking of injury problems, Mitchell has had his own checkered injury history, and that could ultimately be what makes him a trade candidate for a 49ers team looking to successfully do a limbo dance under the pole that is the NFL’s salary cap.

Mitchell has appeared in just 27 of a possible 51 regular season games in his three NFL seasons, and his efficiency plunged from 6.2 yards per carry in 2022 to 3.7 yards per carry last year.

Some feel Jordan Mason, a running back further down in the 49ers’ depth chart (and who Tansey also mentioned as a trade candidate), is fully capable of being McCaffrey’s main backup. Tansey also wrote that Guerendo, the Niners’ fourth-round pick, could be able to supplant Mitchell as the 49ers’ RB2.

Trading Mitchell wouldn’t save San Francisco that much money or help much in terms of clearing cap space (he only has a $1.1 million cap hit for the 2024 season). But it could be one of multiple moves that helps make it easier to pay Aiyuk the $30 million or year he is rumored to be demanding in order to keep him around.

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