Frank Gore up the middle for no gain.
Barring a last-minute change of heart by the 49ers, that run at the end of a Dec. 28 win over the Arizona Cardinals promises to be the final one by Gore in a red and gold uniform. According to multiple reports, the Philadelphia Eagles will sign Gore to a three-year deal that averages about $5 million annually and includes $7.5 million guaranteed when free agency officially begins Tuesday.
The 49ers are believed to be willing to spend up to $4 million annually on their all-time leading rusher, who turns 32 in May. Gore also reportedly has been telling friends and teammates that he is heading to Philadelphia.
The anecdotal evidence supports a departure as well. Gore’s Bay Area trainer, Brian Schwartz, went to Facebook to chastise the 49ers on their decision with Gore. “It’s over...Niners horrible business,” Schwartz wrote. “You deserve everything that’s coming your way...”
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The team’s No. 2 running back last year, Carlos Hyde, posted a picture of Gore walking off the practice field with his arm around Hyde. Many interpreted it as a farewell gesture to the older running back, who served as the team’s workhorse during some of its leanest seasons and who has rushed for more yards – 11,073 – than any other 49er.
Gore cannot sign a contract until 1 p.m. Tuesday at the earliest. If he does ink a deal with the Eagles, Hyde, a second-round pick in 2014, will be the front-runner to take over Gore’s starting spot and the 49ers likely will look at other free-agent running backs.
They already have been linked to Buffalo’s C.J. Spiller. San Diego free agent Ryan Mathews and Washington’s Roy Helu also make sense in an offense that likely will rotate its backs more than in the past and use a stretch-running blocking technique that new offensive-line coach Chris Foerster utilized in Washington.
Despite his age, Gore has shown little sign of slowing down in recent years. He topped 1,000 yards for the eighth time in 10 seasons last year and finished with a better yards-per-carry average than Hyde, who is eight years his junior.
It seems as if Gore – like former 49ers greats Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott and Joe Montana – will play out his career in another uniform.
At this stage in his career, Gore wants two things: another 1,000-yard season and a chance to win a Super Bowl, both of which presumably would nudge him closer to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
In Philadelphia, he would take over from LeSean McCoy, who led the NFL in rushing yards in 2013 and finished third in the league last season. Philadelphia last week traded McCoy to the Buffalo Bills, and now the Eagles have more than $45 million in salary cap space.
The Eagles also have an innovative offense and one of the NFL’s top offensive lines. Still, they fell to the host 49ers 26-21 in Week 4 last season, a game in which Gore had 119 yards on the ground and caught a 55-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.