Three and out: Gore to lose carries in 2012?

Hunter to see more reps: During a press conference Thursday, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters that RB Kendall Hunter should see more action next season. Anyone who watched the 49ers regularly in 2011 likely isn’t completely surprised by that statement. Hunter averaged 4.22 yards per carry as Frank Gore’s backup last season and performed admirably in place of the injured starter on more than one occasion. But before you hang a “by committee” tag on one more NFL running back situation, there’s nothing to indicate Gore won’t get the bulk of the carries. With the veteran approaching 29, however, and having been injury prone throughout his seven-year career, it makes sense that San Francisco will do whatever it can to preserve him for awhile longer — even if that means he sees fewer touches.

Manning to the Chiefs?: Enter a new team in the increasingly heated Peyton Manning Derby — the Kansas City Chiefs. Assuming the standard Manning caveats (he’s released by the Colts; his recovery allows him to play well again), landing with the Chiefs immediately raises the value of Dwayne Bowe, who posted more than 1,100 receiving yards in 2011 despite catching passes from Kyle Orton and Tyler Palko. Similarly, a revitalized passing game could mean good things for Jamaal Charles, who will be returning from knee surgery. The downside? Matt Cassel could become a fantasy afterthought. But as a mid-level QB, chances are it won’t be lamented by too many owners.

Bills could franchise Johnson: The original narrative in the Bills’ attempt to re-sign Stevie Johnson has said the team would be hesitant to use the franchise tag on the wideout. Although in recent days, NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reported that it could happen — a report that was confirmed by GM Buddy Nix, who told a Buffalo radio station that the franchise tag option was very much a possibility if the two sides can’t agree on a deal. In that case, cross Johnson off the seemingly ever-shrinking list of free agent receivers. It also means less head scratching about where to rank Johnson. As long as the maddeningly inconsistent Ryan Fitzpatrick is throwing the ball, the young WR remains a No. 2 option in just about all formats.

— Marcas Grant

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