Niners sign ex-Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon to four-year deal

Jerick McKinnon wanted a chance to be a featured running back. He'll get that shot, and he'll be paid like one.

Good Morning Football's Peter Schrager reported Wednesday that McKinnon has agreed in principle to a deal with the San Francisco 49ers. He signed his contract with the 49ers on Thursday.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported the deal is worth $30 million over four seasons. The $7.5 million per-year average would put McKinnon -- who has 14 career starts -- as the fourth-highest paid running back in the NFL (south of only Le'Veon Bell, Devonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy).

The deal is massive for a player who spent four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings as a rotational player, earning 1,918 yards on 474 carries with seven TDs while adding 142 receptions for 984 yards and five touchdown catches. McKinnon was ranked No. 51 on NFL.com's Top 101 Free Agents of 2018.

After years of playing behind Adrian Peterson, McKinnon took on a larger role in Minnesota after Dalvin Cook went down with a torn ACL. A true dual-threat, McKinnon earned 158 carries for 618 yards and four rushing touchdowns, with 57 catches for 472 yards and two receiving scores from Week 5 onward last season.

The Niners had a need after Carlos Hyde defected to the Cleveland Browns.

As San Francisco's backfield is currently comprised, McKinnon enters as the top option -- at least until the draft. He was never afforded that opportunity in Minnesota. When he was finally in line to replace Adrian Peterson, the Vikings' brass responded by importing Latavius Murray and taking Cook high in the draft.

Given the contract figure, it's clear the Niners believe McKinnon will thrive in Kyle Shanahan's offense and should finally get that starting gig.

Shanahan's history of coaxing production from running backs bodes well for a do-it-all threat like McKinnon. Shanny has helped running backs like Steve Slaton and Alfred Morris burst onto the NFL scene. Atlanta Falcons shifty running back Tevin Coleman, who flourished in his second season under Shanahan, could be the closest example with McKinnon's skill set.

With the market for running backs heating up, McKinnon enters the new league year a huge winner and a much richer man.