As of now, Tarell Brown will hit the free agent market in five days, leaving the San Francisco 49ers potentially searching for a replacement, whether inside or outside the current organization, at a position they have recently struggled at. What will the 49ers do with this conundrum?
First and foremost, we already know that Brown was passed over for Tramaine Brock during the season for a new contract. This likely occurred due to a disagreement between Brown’s agent and the 49ers’ brass over Brown’s worth to the franchise. With cornerback being a prime position of need around the NFL–and with many teams overpaying for it–it is quite likely that a player of Brown’s caliber will receive a contract greater than the approximately $4 million a year given to Brock. Does that mean he is worth it or will live up to it? Not necessarily. Free agency is a time when teams habitually overspend (see: Haynesworth, Albert). It is usually smart to let players seeking overpriced contracts walk–look no further than Dashon Goldson last year. Thus, ultimately, the 49ers should let Brock test the market and if he comes back on a team-friendly deal, great. If not, no worries.
What should the 49ers do if he does decide to leave? First and foremost, they should rebuild through the draft–no matter what happens with Brown, this position could use some help. I would expect a 2nd or 3rd rounder, with an outside shot at a 1st-rounder if the right guy (Justin Gilbert, perhaps) is sitting pretty towards the end of the 1st round. The 49ers also expect a lot from promising cornerback Chris Culliver upon his return from injury. He definitely improved in 2012 compared to previous years. They could look to find a placeholder corner via free-agency, if one comes cheaply, but for a team needing to get younger, this seems counterproductive in the long-term.
Keep your eyes and ears open, folks, free agency is about to begin.