After trading for an interior offensive lineman earlier this week, the 49ers are looking into another position that lacks depth — running back.
The 49ers will host Saints free-agent running back Tim Hightower today, ESPN was first to report. Hightower, 30, spent his first three seasons in the NFL (2008-10) with the Arizona Cardinals, then missed the following three seasons after ACL surgery on his left knee led to an infection in the joint.
He regained his early form the last two seasons as Mark Ingram’s backup in New Orleans. Last year Hightower (6-0, 220) rushed 133 times for 548 yards, an average of 4.1 yards a carry.
That includes his only start of 2016, Nov. 6 against the 49ers, in which he carried the ball 23 times for 87 yards against the worst-ranked run defense in San Francisco’s 71-year history.
The 49ers presumably are eyeing Hightower as Carlos Hyde’s main backup.
In the previous two seasons, that role has gone to Shaun Draughn, DuJuan Harris and Mike Davis, none of whom have flourished when given the chance. Draughn and Harris are free agents; Davis is under contract for 2017 but has averaged just 2.0 yards a carry in his first two NFL seasons.
The 49ers also have been linked to LSU running back Leonard Fournette in the upcoming draft. San Francisco has the second overall selection and Fournette is considered the best runner in a deep group of tailbacks.
On Wednesday the 49ers traded for Ravens center Jeremy Zuttah, who has played both that position and guard during his nine NFL seasons. He likely will compete at center and at left guard this offseason.