Pete Prisco: ‘You Don’t Pay 32-Year-Old Running Backs’

San Francisco 49ers owner Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke lost a head coach this offseason – Jim Harbaugh – who, based on results, was an elite NFL coach.

Well, York and Baalke might now lose two top-notch skill position players in running back Frank Gore and tight end Vernon Davis. Both are free agents.

Gore ran for 1,000+ yards for the eighth time in nine seasons last year, but he turns 32 in May. Davis, meanwhile, had 26 catches for 245 yards – his fewest in both categories since his rookie season in 2006.

Thus, we have the age-old question for owners and GMs everywhere: Do we value sentimentality or production? Maybe it varies by sport, but the NFL is a bottom-line business.

Are both Gore and Davis back next year? Only one? Neither?

“I think Frank Gore is playing elsewhere unless he agrees to come back on a one-year deal or something,” CBS Sports senior NFL columnist Pete Prisco said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I just don’t think you pay – Tiki will know this – you don’t pay 32-year-old running backs. You just don’t. That’s just not the way of the world anymore. And so I don’t think he’ll come back unless he comes back with a one-year deal.

“I think Davis will come back,” Prisco continued. “I think he’s too valuable to that team. Don’t forget the left guard (Mike Iupati) is an unrestricted free agent. He might be their best player available on the market. They got guys they got to re-sign and bring back to the roster, and I think he’s first and foremost – if they’re going to play power football. Iupati is a good run guard, but he’s not a great guy in pass protection.”

Whatever happens, it’s always interesting to see the decisions executives make. Some are really good at doing what’s right for their franchise; others, however, seem to do what feels good or will win points with fans, but maybe isn’t necessarily the best course of action.

Like Ray Farmer (trading up to draft Johnny Manziel) and Doug Whaley (trading up to draft Sammy Watkins).

“It’s funny,” Prisco said, “because you bump into guys at night and have a couple beverages and you talk with them. You get their gauge on what they think is right and what’s wrong. We of course all have gauges in our heads what we think is right or wrong. And you guys know me: I’ll tell them if I don’t think they’re right.

“But it’s funny because over the years you come through the process and you remember telling the guy, ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you. I don’t think he’s that good.’ And then he does it and a couple years later it blows up in his face.”

Indeed, sometimes executives become far too enamored with a certain player – and for bad reasons.

“They say, ‘This is our guy. We’re going to go after him,’” Prisco explained. “Sometimes you can fall in love with a guy and force yourself to instead of critically looking at him and evaluating him. The other thing is, you can’t get inside a guy’s head. As much as they try to with all the psychological tests and everything else, nobody knows what a guy’s going to be like when he gets to the locker room and gets a boatload of money in his pocket. That changes people.”

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