2014 could be the final year of Frank Gore’s tenure in San Francisco.Ronald Martinez / Getty Images

No. 1 – Frank Gore

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It’s hard to admit, but we can at least witness Frank Gore’s swan song in San Francisco.

At the age of 31, Gore is already past that age when most running backs hang up their cleats.

To his credit, it’s great to see Gore contributing at such a high level now in its 10th season. But you can’t overlook the fact that gore is slowing down.

Gore averaged 4.1 yards per carry in 2013 – still usable but the lowest in his career. Plus, Gore’s yards per game had dropped to 70.5 – only second after his rookie season when he battled Kevan Barlow for game time.

In addition, Gore is entering the final year of a three-year contract for $ 19.213 million. With an average annual salary of $ 6.4 million, gore is an expensive commodity that the 49ers are expected to part with in late 2014.

When Gore returns in 2015, there will certainly be a much more team-friendly salary. Also, if Carlos Hyde and Marcus Lattimore show up as expected, his playing time will be limited.

An excellent breakdown of Gore’s last year can be viewed here on SB Nation.

Whatever the case, we have to look forward to his role in 2014. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Gore will be the number 1 of the team to return to the regular season. He has not lost this position yet.

One possible scenario for 2014 is the following: Gore receives the nod at launch to begin the regular season. This allows Gore to maintain his status as the leader and main instigator of the team’s offensive while young players like Hyde and Lattimore learn the ropes of competition on the NFL stage.

As the latter two develop, Gore’s transfers should diminish over time, perhaps with the intent of a team to keep him fresh for another playoff run.

This approach solves two things. First, backs like Hyde and Lattimore can develop at a more comfortable and less demanding pace. And it allows the 49ers to move away from Gore – something they have to do in the near future.

49ers have to handle Frank Gore http://t.co/Rsv1d8BV0u

– Grant Cohn (@grantcohn) June 4, 2014

San Francisco fans want Gore to be ahead of the game. Hopefully he does that with a Super Bowl ring that matches his high achievements.

There is still one season to achieve this.

San Francisco is blessed with a multitude of talented running backs preparing for the 2014 season. The team can also count on strong reserves that can complement Gore’s game as needed.

There will be battles as we determine the final depth map, and these will continue to play out as the 49ers move through the preseason. How exactly they end up remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: The 49ers love to play the ball.

As 2014 draws nearer, they are able to do this better than ever.

All stats, records and awards courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com unless otherwise stated. Contract information courtesy of Spotrac.com.

Peter Panacy is a columnist for Bleacher Report, covering the San Francisco 49ers. Be sure to check out his entire archive on 49ers reporting and analysis.

Follow @PeterMcShots on Twitter.

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