Last week, coach Chip Kelly said the 49ers were interested in bringing back Shaun Draughn this year. On Wednesday, they did just that, signing the running back to a one-year deal, his agent said.
Draughn, who was scheduled to become a free agent next week, was one of several off-the-street additions last season after injuries to Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush and Mike Davis decimated the 49ers’ running backs corps.
Following a particularly costly game against the St. Louis Rams on Nov. 1, the 49ers called Draughn, who was living in Cleveland after being recently cut by the Browns.
Draughn, 28, flew to the Bay Area, signed with the 49ers and started the next game against the Atlanta Falcons. He carried 16 times for 58 yards in a 17-16 home win.
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“Shaun did a heck of a job for us last year despite joining the team in the middle of the season,” general manager Trent Baalke said in a statement. “He certainly earned the respect of everyone in our organization for the way he handled himself, both on and off the field, and we are excited to have him back.”
A knee injury sidelined Draughn for the final two games of the season. Draughn, Davis, DuJuan Harris, Kendall Gaskins, Jarryd Hayne and other possible off-season additions will compete for a job in the 49ers’ backfield along with Hyde this summer. Bush also is scheduled for free agency.
Draughn is a good runner and receiver out of the backfield. In six games, he ran for 263 yards on 76 carries and caught 25 passes for 175 yards. He also has value on special teams, which made his return for 2016 even more likely.
Last year with the Philadelphia Eagles, three of Kelly’s running backs – DeMarco Murray, Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles – had at least 80 carries. Sproles often was split wide as a receiver, a dual-threat role that perhaps Bruce Ellington could fill for the 49ers.
Kelly said last week he was intrigued by Ellington, who at 5-foot-9 is the 49ers’ smallest receiver, and that the team will look to carve out a role for him.