The 49ers have begun contract talks aimed at extending former second-round pick Carlos Hyde, league sources said, though that could prove to be a tricky proposition. The 2018 free-agent class of running backs appears pretty bleak, and it's unlikely the team would pace the lucrative franchise tag on Hyde. Though oft-injured, Hyde is having what could be a true breakthrough season.

San Francisco selected Hyde 57th overall in 2014, and while he has missed games in all four of his NFL seasons, he has also showed signs of being an impact player when healthy. Hyde has missed two of the 49ers' first four games this season, but in rookie head coach Kyle Shanahan's proven run scheme, he has been a difference maker when the ball has been in his hands, racking up 169 yards on 24 carries (seven yards per attempt).

Finding a comparable player to Hyde in negotiations could be tough, and Hyde missed 14 games due to injury in his first three seasons as well, making an assessment difficult. But sources said new general manager John Lynch, who did not draft Hyde but thinks highly of his ability, would like to extend his contract and has been making attempts to do as much.

Some might read it as attempting to buy low on Hyde, who has averaged a stout 4.5 yards per carry with 13 rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns in his career. Ultimately, it might be in Hyde's best interest to gamble on himself and see how the season plays out. However, given his injury history and his missed time in 2017, it also may be difficult not to at least consider even a team-friendly deal.

While running back salaries have largely stagnated in recent years, Hyde could potentially benefit by being the best available back on the open market. The Steelers would likely put the franchise tag back on Le'Veon Bell, and Hyde, 27, could be the most attractive option for the limited number of teams that would seriously explore free agency over the draft for a running back.