Looking for a short-yardage running back as well as someone who could start if Frank Gore got injured, the 49ers on Wednesday agreed to terms with former Giants running back Brandon Jacobs on a one-year deal. The Bee had reported on the 49ers' interest in Jacobs; ESPN first reported the deal.
At 6-4, 264 pounds, Jacobs is the biggest tailback in the NFL, and he ran for more than 1,000 yards in 2007 and in 2008. Last year, however, Jacobs' per-carry average dropped to 3.8 yards, his lowest in six seasons, and he started six games. Jacobs turns 30 in July.
However, his size always has made him a difficult runner to tackle, and in that way he meshes with the 49ers' power-based approach. Jacobs scored seven touchdowns last season, although he struggled in short-yardage carries at times for the Giants. The team has been in contact with Jacobs' agent since he was released earlier this month.
General manager Trent Baalke is on record as saying the trend in the NFL is to have three running backs with complementary skills. With Gore, 28, Jacobs and Kendall Hunter, the team now has a versatile starting running back, a running back with size who can grind down on defenses and a smaller runner who can break big runs. Jacobs was the "Earth" in the Giants' so-called "Earth, Wind and Fire" running back committee that featured Ahmad Bradshaw and Derrick Ward. Now the 49ers have a similar arrangement.
Jacobs' addition puts him in competition with third-year runner Anthony Dixon, who also has size but who has vexed coaches with his habit of "dancing" at the line of scrimmage and breaking inside runs to the outside. Dixon, however, also has value on the 49ers' coverage units the other running backs don't have. The team also added running back Rock Cartwright in free agency, although he is seen primarily as a special teams ace.
-- Matt Barrows