While maybe not a household name even after the San Francisco 49ers‘ journey to Super Bowl LIV, running back Raheem Mostert put himself on the map in 2019.
Mostert not only played a massive role in games like the 37-20 NFC Championship win over the Green Bay Packers, Mostert averaged 5.6 yards per carry and scored 10 total rushing touchdowns, far surpassing fellow running back Tevin Coleman’s contribution to the team.
So when ESPN’s Josina Anderson recently tweeted out that Mostert is looking for a raise after a breakout 2019, it only makes sense.
In most cases, a player wanting a new contract or raise after one season is just unreasonable, head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense requires a serious amount of work from its running backs, and Mostert not only fit that role, he excelled in it.
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Mostert’s Current Deal and Background
49ers fans likely don’t need to hear this, but the context of Mostert’s football career somewhat explains why he’s likely wanting a new deal.
Recently turned 28, Mostert is hitting the point that many NFL running backs typically lose immense value. The requirements of the position are as demanding as any position on the gridiron, and Mostert is obviously aware of that.
However, with just 34 games played before 2019 and zero career NFL starts, Mostert likely has much more in the tank than many RBs at his age. And while San Francisco has to feel pretty shrewd after Mostert’s 2019 campaign, a cap hit of $3.1 million in 2020 is not much for a player who averaged 6.0 yards per carry when factoring in the playoff run.
This is not to mention that Mostert got to the position he’s in with the 49ers the hard way. Making rosters and being cut from four different NFL teams in 2015 and 2016 before joining up with the 49ers is an extremely intense but common process for the majority of the NFL, so when an opportunity to get paid arises, it’s only sensible that the player wants the best possible deal he can get.
Here’s an insane tidbit on Mostert’s journey through the league: before his 2019 contract with the 49ers, the running back had only received $5,000 in guaranteed money. Even with his new deal, Mostert has only seen $3,000,500 in guaranteed pay.
Solutions to the 49ers’ Mostert Problem
Alright. There’s all these reasons why Mostert wants a raise, and let’s say the 49ers agree with the former Purdue running back and his agent. How does the team go about it?
That’s where things get tricky. For one, the 49ers are in the process of solving George Kittle’s new contract this offseason with the limited cap space of just under $12 million, the 49ers simply will have to trim salaries or readjust contracts to make it all work.
In Mostert’s case, however, there are some obvious solutions. The most obvious? Cutting Tevin Coleman.
With seven total touchdowns and 724 total yards, Coleman certainly contributed and was a fine option in the backfield. But when compared to Mostert’s season as the technical backup, it’s apparent that paying Coleman $4.55 million in 2020 and a considerable amount more than Mostert doesn’t make a ton of sense (or cents.)
However, cutting Coleman still means a dead cap hit of $2 million, so releasing him doesn’t really save the 49ers much money, but would at least free up both logistical and financial wiggle room for San Francisco to get Mostert the pay raise he desires.
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Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.