In some way, shape, or form, the 49ers will need a cornerback in the offseason. Maybe not one to become a starter, but one to push their homegrown developmental prospects for a starting position. Ahkello Witherspoon had his moments, but he also didn’t really have anyone to compete with for 2018 starting spotand that may have contributed to his less than stellar season.
The 49ers secondary had issues in 2018, but they also have invested a lot of picks into the cornerback position. Spending a boatload of money on a new one may not be the smartest of decisions when you consider the draft picks used, but maybe they can get someone.
So the free agent market has some names. The first one to come up is Jimmie Ward. You know him—he plays for the 49ers. Well, his contract is up and it’s anyone’s guess if the 49ers will re-up. Given his injury history and the fact he began 2018 as a glorified backup, I think Ward is gone, but maybe they can work something out. The benefits of Ward are his familiarity with Saleh’s system. The problem is, he just can’t stay healthy. Ward also could be listed with the safeties, but the original idea at the start of 2018 was for him to go in at nickel corner.
Next up is Steven Nelson from the Kansas City Chiefs. He played 98.8 percent of their defensive snaps last year—so the guy has durability. He also had a solid 2018 season with four interceptions and 58 solo tackles. He also was the most targeted player in the NFL last season which could help when teams lay off of Richard Sherman this year. The only issue really with Nelson is that before 2018, his stats weren’t near as great and he could drop off after this season. The guy will also cost a lot of money to come to San Francisco.
The big name in free agency for cornerbacks is Ronald Darby with the Philadelphia Eagles. His ACL tear in 2018 may make him more affordable, but the bad part of that he had an ACL tear. Cornerback is one of the worst positions to have the injury and it may hinder his speed when he returns. That injury aside, Darby is considered the top cornerback addition in several free agent lists
There’s a lot of names here to consider, but the last one I’ll bring up in particular is Morris Claiborne. Claiborne isn’t a splash signing per-say, but the 49ers could do a lot worse. Given the talent the 49ers have, he could add excellent depth and also light a fire under the younger cornerbacks in a fight for playing time. The question will be how much he costs. Claiborne isn’t great, but he isn’t awful either and several teams may nab him for a starting role.
Here’s the list of the free agent cornerbacks per Over the Cap. Things could change with franchise tags and deals, but all of the below have contracts expiring. Would you be interested in any of these guys coming to Santa Clara?