RB Kendall Hunter has excelled as a change-of-pace back for the San Francisco 49ers when spelling starter Frank Gore. While he’s been perfectly cast for the role he’s called upon to fill, what does the future hold for the veteran runner?
Gore is entering the final year of his contract and will be 31 years old when the season starts. Even if he returns to the 49ers in 2015, it will be at a reduced price and with a smaller role.
Hunter is also due to be a free agent after 2014, but the 49ers have expressed interest in extending his contract. What is unknown is whether or not the team views him as a back who can carry the load or just someone who would continue to play sparingly.
Overall, Hunter has performed well when given the chance. He has a career average of 4.6 yards per carry and has rushed for 1202 yards on 262 attempts. He’s also found the end zone seven times. While those numbers were accumulated over three seasons, they would be impressive for any running back during a single campaign.
The wildcard in Hunter’s future has less to do with him and more to do with who his competition will be. The name to keep an eye on here is Marcus Lattimore, who the 49ers drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 draft.
Lattimore suffered a pair of knee injuries in college and his latest of the two kept him out all of 2013. San Francisco was able to take a chance on him because of the deep stable of backs already on their roster. Should Lattimore prove he’s healthy and regains his old form, he could jump to the top of the depth chart next season.
If Lattimore’s ascension does indeed happen, Hunter could find himself in a similar role to the one he is currently in when 2015 rolls around. There is also the possibility that Gore could return to the team, which could leave Hunter on the outside looking in.
It’s possible for Hunter to be a big part of the 49ers moving forward, or he may be on a different roster all together. Only time will tell how this situation plays out.