49ers free agency: running back options if Carlos Hyde exits

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SANTA CLARA Carlos Hyde, barring a spin move like his 2015-opening touchdown run, is heading for free agency as the 49ers evaluate their options.

In-house, do they turn to Matt Breida, last years eye-opening rookie as Hydes backup? Can they count at all on Joe Williams, a fourth-round pick who missed his rookie year with a foot injury after a tepid camp?

Rather than await the draft, free agency offers the 49ers tenured running backs who could flourish in coach Kyle Shanahans system, as Hyde somewhat did last year in a durable season lacking many highlights.

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Here are top options for the 49ers to consider when free agency commences next week, with talks opening Monday and official deals getting done as early as 1 p.m. Wednesday:

1. Alfred Morris (Cowboys): No free agent has a deeper background in Shanahans system, starting with back-to-back Pro Bowls his first two years in Washington. Morris was a 1,613-yard, 13-touchdown rookie rusher in 2012. We make fun of him because he wont ever go walk-through tempo. Hes always full speed, Shanahan told the New York Times in 2013. Mostly a reserve in Dallas the past two years, Morris filled in during Ezekiel Elliotts six-game suspension last season, but just 1 of 99 carries in that stretch went for a touchdown. He turns 30 in December.

2. Isaiah Crowell (Browns): Out of his four seasons in Cleveland, he ran for a career-high eight touchdowns as an undrafted rookie with Shanahan as his offensive coordinator in 2014. Hes averaged 4.2 yards per carry all-time on a lousy team, and his 96 career receptions bolster his stock. His best game: 145 yards, two touchdowns in a 2015 win over the 49ers. Crowell, 25, has a 5-foot-11, 225-pound frame comparable to Hydes.

3. Dion Lewis (Patriots): This 5-foot-8 rusher emerged as the Patriots primary back last season, rushing for 896 yards and six touchdowns while also catching 32 of 35 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns. But back in 2014, he got beat out by Crowell (a rookie) in that Browns camp with Shanahan as offensive coordinator. Lewis had missed 2013 with a fractured left fibula and he didnt play in 2014.

4. Jerick McKinnon (Vikings): McKinnon fits the Shanahan profile of a running back capable of catching passes. He had 51 receptions for 421 yards (8.3-yard average) last season; Hyde had a team-high 59 catches for 350 yards (5.9-yard average). McKinnon, 25, has started only 14 of 58 games as a 2014 third-round pick from Georgia Southern.

5. Orleans Darkwa (Giants): A diamond in the rough, Darkwas only 20-carry games produced the Giants only three wins last season, including a 127-yard outing in a season-finale win over Washington. He had 14 carries for 70 yards in a loss to the 49ers. Last seasons 751 rushing yards aside, Darkwa has only 29 career receptions. He was undrafted out of Tulane.

Honorable mention: Frank Gore (Colts), Jeremy Hill (Bengals), Rex Burkhead (Patriots), LeGarrette Blount (Eagles), Doug Martin (Buccaneers), Shane Vereen (Giants), Alfred Blue (Texans).